Speaking can be a skill that sets you apart from the pack. I happen to be a natural extrovert and a bit of a ham (okay, more than a bit). And I study manuals and attend classes to improve my product. Ask the professionals: they never stop trying to get better.
Here are my favorite tips:
(1) Choose a title that captures your audience’s attention.
Your title works like a headline in copywriting. Grab the audience, demonstrate a benefit, and get them on the edge of their chairs.
”Five career-killing mistakes most new managers make” will be stronger than “Tips to survive your first month as a new manager” (although that’s not bad, depending on your audience).
(2) Choose 3 takeaways.
Your audience won’t remember more than 3 main points or “takeaways,” i.e., what they “take away” from the talk. Choose three straightforward topics and build your talk around them.
(3) Identify your own biggest challenge.
Practice with a tape recorder. Get used to the sound of your own voice and get comfortable with your style. For instance, I’ve been told I’m a “compelling” speaker who commands attention.
But I tend to speak fast (I was born in New York). So as I speak, I consciously slow down my words and pause from time to time. I’ve learned that my timing is perfect when I feel that I’m speaking at snail speed.
(4) Involve the audience.
If possible, discover your group’s most pressing needs. Call a few members of the organization. Personalize your talk with a reference to the group’s unique interests, qualities and/or needs.
During your talk, hold attention with stories and ask your audience to respond to questions. If time is tight, your questions can be rhetorical: just get everyone nodding or ask for a show of hands.
(5) End early.
Better to finish ahead of time and take questions than to go past your assigned time.
Of course, we could write a book on this topic. Some people have!
To hone your skills, some managers join groups like Toastmasters.
Chapters vary widely, so I recommend attending at least three to five meetings as a guest before making a commitment to join. Some chapters include professional media anchors and highly paid professional speakers while others attract shy novices. Ideally, you won’t be the best or the worst speaker, and you’ll have good role models as well as opportunities to practice getting up to speak.
Few people start life as great speakers. Getting ready for my high school reunion, I spoke to a classmate who remembered me as “rather quiet and shy.” Well, it was a very long time ago!
Would you like some help crafting your stories for speeches and other opportunities? My new product is designed for business owners but you’ll need stories for your resume and interviews, too.