Friday, March 22, 2013

Before the Speech

1. Rehearse

While this seems like a no-brainer, a lot of the corporate executives I have coached before actually think they can wing it before their big speech. As a result, their speeches and presentations end up with many awkward silences and transitions while building up unnecessary tension for themselves. 

The key in rehearsing is not to memorize it word for word such that you are unable to flow or react with sudden circumstances, like having a question from the audience that derails your train of thought.

Rehearse standing up. Gesticulate as if you are speaking to an actual crowd. Practise pausing at important segments of your speech like after asking a rhetorical question or for dramatic silences while telling a story. The closer you get yourself to anchoring to an ideal state of delivery, the better your rehearsal prepares you for your actual speech.

2. It’s about Your Audience

There are two questions that remain in the minds of the audience, “What’s in it for me?” and “So what?”

Handling these “mental objections” at the onset ensures that both you and your audience will be on the same page.

The first question boils down to either what the audience can gain in listening to your speech and/or what the audience will lose out on in not listening to your speech i.e. the pleasure and pain principle. The second question relates to relevance to an audience — the more you connect the dots and make it relevant to them, the stronger the listening you create.

To find the answers to these two questions, you can do two things – interview your audience and intelligent guessing.

A professional speaker who gets paid a modest five-figure sum for his hour-long keynote speeches once shared with me that he has a routine system of interviewing at least 15% of his audience before his speech with a set of questions to find out what are the challenges they face vis-à-vis the topic to be presented and what they hope to take away from the speech.