You’re sitting in a meeting listening to everyone discuss an important matter and then the worst thing happens, a senior leader in your Executive Leadership Team turns to you and says, (insert your name here) “what do you think?” Everyone in the meeting stops, turns and stares at you, and waits for you to say something excellent. Ha ha! For many people this is your worst nightmare! You were pleased to be included in the meeting, you have well-formed opinions about the subject matter being discussed, you may even be a subject matter expert, but let’s face it, it’s your worst nightmare to speak off the cuff, unprepared in front of people who are very likely to judge you from your first word. You feel hot. Your face goes red. You become awkward. And worse still, your brain goes numb and empties itself of all reasonable thinking. Grimace! It’s a fact that most of us do prefer to be well-prepared before we address a meeting, update our manager, colleagues or clients, or involve ourselves in meetings. After all, we never want to look foolish in front of our work colleagues, customers or Executive Leaders.
Why does this happen?
My question is, how does this happen? Why do we end up in meetings where we don’t express ourselves as clearly as we mean to? Why is it that we don’t stand out for all the right reasons in meetings, conferences or training sessions that we deliver? Why is it that so many people call me saying, “Help Michelle! I just made a fool of myself in front of the Board and I never want to speak in public again!” The answer? You may not be seeing these many and varied opportunities as opportunities to use the formulas, models and best-practice skills of public speaking. The thing is, most of us don’t realise the many opportunities that present during a workday are actually opportunities to speak in public. Rather, we tend to run from one thing to another, prepare (if at all) on the fly, and then rush into the next meeting. Not a lot of analysis, design of the message or thinking about our message delivery gets done. The good news is, if you changed your focus slightly and saw every moment that you communicate at work (emails, business proposals, tender responses, pitches, meetings, training, coaching – I mean seriously, the list is endless!), as an opportunity to use the models, formulas and skills of public speaking you may just find that you command attention, persuade more easily and accelerate your career.
Today is the day to make a pledge to take your communication at work more seriously, so seriously in fact that you apply some best-practice public speaking models every time you can to achieve awesome results.
Please don’t over complicate this for yourself
As scary as it might feel to step into the world of public speaking, it doesn’t need to be complicated. A good training course can really help you. I’ve been teaching this skill for over 25 years and there have been 3 people in that whole time I couldn’t help. These 3 people were so addicted to staying nervous that my formulas didn’t work for them. Conversely, I’m so proud that hundreds of thousands of people now know everything they need to know about the formulas, models and best-practice skills to be an excellent public speaker and they are reaping the rewards in their life at work and home. You can do it! Take some steps to read a book, attend a training, or engage a coach so that you can learn from someone you like and trust and be an awesome public speaker yourself!
While you’re finding the right trainer, book or coach, here are a few quick tips for you:
- Remember it’s not about you it’s all about the audience. Great speakers serve their audience, they get into their stakeholders’ shoes and they pitch their message in a way the stakeholder can hear it.
- Learn everything you can about the three phases of public speaking: analysis, design and delivery. This is the winning formula and it works for everyone, no matter your industry, role, or expertise.
- Make sure you put enough time into your preparation, but don’t waste time doing things you don’t need to worry about.
- Design what you want to say before you create your slides and maybe run it past someone to check there’s a logic, the right amount of data and a few memorable case studies or stories in there.
- Always rehearse out loud (but don’t rote learn), even if just a few run throughs. Great spakers rehearse until they can’t get it wrong!
- Engage your audience from the start. The aim of the opening or beginning of the speech is to engage the audience, build rapport with them and manage any of their objections to you and/or your content.
- Look people right in the whites of their eyes (on zoom be sure to look right into the camera so people ‘think’ you’re looking right at them). This is the key to connection and rapport.
- Speak as clearly as you can. No point having a great idea if the audience can’t hear or understand you.
- People are persuaded in different ways. Make sure you include facts and data, stories and credibility, humour, interaction and smiling and deliver with as much charm as you can muster. Meet the needs of all audience types, not just the people like you.
- Ensure your visuals are emotionally evocative, not ‘death by PowerPoint’ and that they reinforce your messages. Remember a picture speaks a thousand words.
There’s absolutely no good reason to ever find yourself in that cringy situation where you have to speak up in a meeting and you go blank or say something silly. Let’s make sure that at every communication moment we make the best of the situation and get the approval, win the deal, elicit the help, convince the boss, and/or excite our client. Excellent public speaking is not rocket science. It’s just a series of formulas, models and best-practice skills that work when you use them. Take some steps today to make sure you stand out for all the right reasons! My very best wishes to you.