Speaking of Which…

At Whiteboard Consulting we love to talk. (Those of you who know us are shocked, I’m sure.) It makes sense, then, that a good chunk of what we do for clients is to facilitate workshops and offer training on a number of business improvement topics.

This week I taught a two-day workshop in Sault Ste. Marie. The students were really engaged, and we had a lot of laughs during the course. At the end of the second day I got a lot of positive feedback and it really energized me! This is why I love this part of my job – it’s incredibly rewarding.

Not excited about public speaking? That’s ok. Many people ask us, “How do you do it? You just get up there and talk without any notes! And you make it interesting! I could never do that.”

Sure you can. The key to great public speaking? Knowing the material & engaging the audience – skills you can learn with a little effort. Click to Tweet

Practice Makes Perfect

It’s an old adage, but it’s true. I’ve been developing and training material for about 15 years now. I’ve presented materials for the Conference Board of Canada, the American Society for Quality, the Public Service of Uganda, and Showcase Ontario, to name a few. I’ve taught countless courses on a variety of topics, and the one thing I do every single time, is practice.

Here’s a little checklist for you to help you practice effectively:

  1. Read through the material – no distractions, no notes… just read.
  2. Read through again – this time, make notes in the margins or use a highlighter.
  3. Develop a set of speaking notes – you can use index cards or regular paper for this. The idea is to have something you can hold in your hand while speaking. Eventually you won’t need this, but for rookies it’s calming to have something to hold, and it gives your hands something to do.
  4. Present the materials to an empty room. Several times.
  5. Time yourself. Keep presenting to the empty room until you can complete the presentation in the allotted time.
  6. If you can, present the materials to a trusted friend or colleague. Get your nerves and giggles out on them.
  7. Get up early the day of the presentation and present again. By this time you should only be glancing at your notes. Instead, you’re speaking in a conversational tone instead of reading material – this is HUGELY successful with the audience.

Make ‘em Laugh

Now I’m not implying you need to be a comedian. Nor do you need the audience actually laughing! But if you can get them to smile, nod, look you in the eye and follow you as you move around the room or across the stage, you’ve hooked them!

The trick is to model the behavior you’d like to see.

  1. Move around! That doesn’t mean shift from foot to foot or pace manically back and forth – it means walk across the stage, stop and speak. Then walk somewhere else. Or if in a room with a bunch of tables, walk amongst the tables as you speak. Change the back of the room to the front of the room by speaking back there – it changes your audience’s perspective and wakes them up a bit.
  2. Smile! Not all the time – then you’d just look weird. Pause, smile, carry on.
  3. Look at different people in the eye for a few seconds at a time. If that makes you nervous, speak to the back of the room for a couple of moments until you get into your groove. Everyone will think you’re looking at someone back there.
  4. Speak in a confident tone. Don’t yell, and don’t whisper. You want to sound conversational (and all the practicing you did will ensure this!).

Finally, if you make a mistake, admit it, laugh about it, and carry on. It makes you human, and people like that.

What works for you in these situations? Have you got a Public Speaking success story you’d like to share? Tell us about it on Twitter@whiteboardcons using #betterfastercheaper or email us at info@whiteboardconsulting.ca/staging.

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Until next week!