Saturday, November 7, 2015

Your Speech Insurance Policy

Media and presentation skills coach Edward Segal contributed today's post. Edward has helped hundreds of executives deliver memorable presentations. His advice is based on his experience as a journalist, public speaker, PR consultant, press secretary, and association CEO.

Opportunities to speak in public can be golden opportunities to discuss or demonstrate your expertise, accomplishments, activities or opinions. 

Here’s my checklist of items to keep in mind before you accept any speaking invitation, and suggestions on how to prepare for and get the most out of your presentation. 

Consider it, if you will, your speech insurance policy.

  • Don’t accept speaking invitations for which you are unqualified or unprepared (don’t let your ego get in the way).
  • Ask the organization if there is anything special you should know about the audience or the group (forewarned is forearmed).
  • Know the basics of the speaking situation (format, length, time, location, etc.). 
  • Dress appropriately (usually one level above the audience). 
  • Remove any distracting jewelry, name tags or badges before you start (it’s all about you). 
  • Stand out from your backdrop (dress in contrasting colors so you don’t disappear).
  • Check yourself in a mirror before you go on (lipstick, food in teeth, straighten tie, check zippers and buttons, etc.). 
  • Test out the mike beforehand to know how far to hold it from your mouth. 
  • Adjust the mike so it does not hide your face.
  • Do not assume that just because you may a have a loud voice people will be able to hear you without a mike. 
  • Assume nothing will work the way it should and plan accordingly (Murphy’s Law). 
  • Prioritize and limit your messages (limit them to 3 or 4).
  • Customize your presentation to meet the needs of the audience or organization. 
  • Answer the two key questions every audience has for every speaker and topic: Who cares? and Why should I care? 
  • Make sure they understand you (refrain from using jargon, buzzwords, and technical terms and phrases your audience may not understand).
  • Practice your presentation, but not to the point where it sounds memorized.
Don’t Talk to Strangers
  • Greet people as they arrive (this will guarantee that you will not be speaking to strangers, but to people you’ve just met). 
Waiting to Go on
  • Take one last bathroom break (better safe than sorry).
  • While waiting to be introduced or, if on a panel, do not look bored or distracted while others are speaking (pay attention!). 
  • Know your stuff (your material, arguments, facts and figures).
  • Know what you will say to open and conclude your remarks, and eliminate any unnecessary information in between. 
  • Be sure to thank them for inviting you. 
  • Tell them why you are there (don’t assume they know).
  • Show your story, don’t just tell it (find and use charts, slides, props, etc.).
  • Keep the audience awake (don’t bore them).
  • Don’t get rattled if you forget some of your points; the audience will not know what you forgot to say. 
  • Arrange for someone to give you a two-minute warning (don’t speak longer than scheduled). 
  • Do not thank them for listening (it’s demeaning to you and to them).
  • Give the audience the gift of time (end early).
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