Speaking in public. To customers, peers, industry leaders. Whomever you’re speaking to, getting on stage and giving the world your two cents can be nerve-wracking.
Getting tongue tied is easily done. But it’s also easily avoided.
Speaking with elegance, eloquence and impact is within the grasp of everybody.
This article shares some of my favourite tips for nailing what you’ve got to say on stage.
Hopefully, it’ll help some of you show the world what you’ve got, and give your hustle muscle a great workout.
But first, a bit of backstory…
Before I moved into this world and became a creative director, I used to be a teacher.
An RE teacher. A ginger, RE teacher. A young, ginger, RE teacher.
Teaching in some of the toughest schools in Birmingham and Newport, to pupils that have been excluded or expelled from mainstream education.
Tough gig, right?
But every time I have to give a speech, lead a workshop, land a pitch – I’m grateful for those days.
Being a teacher helps you learn some important things as a business speaker.
- How to work a crowd
- How to manage a consensus
- How to grab attention
- How to get the job done
Audience dynamics and audience psychology is teacher school 101. Yet every fresh-faced teacher just past their PGCEs know full well…
What you learn in class about keeping a crowd interested, rarely works when 30 hostile pubescents are waiting to eat you alive.
Business speaking it turns out…is much the same.
So, without further ado, I bring to you my patented:
Five ‘drop the mic’ tips for oratory excellence
Get the hell out there
There is no substitute for going out there and just speaking. Volunteer to attend the pitch. Give that workshop to your colleagues. Get yourself in the mix. Always seize opportunities to get up and give it a go.
I suggest speaking about things you’re passionate about first. In business, you won’t always love what you’re saying.
But as long as the audience thinks you do – it’s all gravy. Try a topic that makes you happy, get an audience, and give it a whirl.
Speaking well in public really is a matter of habit, as much as it is a matter of skill.
Socrates is the main man for public speaking. The Socratic method of speaking in public often involved breaking down pre-conceived definitions into chunks we can digest, challenge and evolve.
“As a business, one of your values is ‘passion’. What is passion to you? Why is it important to us? Will it really drive change?”
You’ll find that soon as you move beyond a word, to what it means, things get a whole lot more interesting. People hide behind words. Your job is to pull back the curtain.
Try out the Socratic method next time you talk.
Take the crowd on a journey with you, and see if you can shake some people out of their comfort zones.
Challenge what they think they know and get a buzz going.
Make a scene
You don’t need jazzy slides to present well.
Often slides are the enemy of crowd engagement.
Videos, jazzy graphics, your favourite ‘fizzle’ effect on PPT.
Ted Talks, Apple product launches, presidential addresses…
Few, if any, slides or gimmicks are used.
What you must do, is learn how to use your language to paint the picture. Be a visual storyteller by the power of your voice.
Learn to explain via analogy, metaphor, anecdote and good old fashion storytelling.
I often find imagining I’m telling my content to my feisty and easily bored four-year-old niece does the trick.
Without being patronising, practice bringing your material to life with the energy, passion and enthusiasm that audience demands.
Structure, structure, structure
Beginning. Middle. End.
These ideas and structures are as old as time. But they work!
The art of public speaking is about making a point. And as few of them as possible if done well.
Try and craft your skeleton structure first. Apply weightings on importance. Know the point you’re getting to.
Some audiences like to know how you got there. Some just like the destination.
But whatever audience you have, you must know in your mind, before you speak, the crux of your argument.
Draft you structure first, and then fill the gaps.
Because you may forget some of the words when the bright lights hit your chrome dome, and the sweat stains your best TK Maxx shirt. If you know your structure however, you can pretty easily fill in the gaps live.
Without it, freestyling becomes a real challenge. Unless you’re Eminem in 8 mile.
Brevity, levity, laughter
The best speaking advice I was ever given was from a History teacher, ex Naval Officer and…well…a bit of a toff.
But his advice holds true and I thank him for it.
His sage advice was three-fold to speaking.
- Brevity – keep it short
- Levity – keep it light
- Laughter – end on a high
If you can look back at your script, your pitch or proposal and say you did those things. You probably nailed it!
Mic check 1, 2…
Public speaking is fun. It is exciting. The more you do it, the more of a buzz you get.
So, my advice, whether you’re client facing or not.
Learn the craft, make a draft and give it a go!
Whether it’s negotiating your next pay rise, or landing that killer contract. You’ll be grateful you did.
Get out there, and flex your hustle muscle.
Tommy Moore – Creative Director at drp