Making Speaking Work For You October 28th, 2008 · 1 Comment The 5 Secrets to Great Speeches by Lauren Mayer, Founder of Lauren Mayer Productions, I was giving a presentation to a prospective client, and it was going great – I remembered my points, the audience was receptive, I was on a roll. Then I pulled my media kit from my briefcase and out came – a pacifier. After an awkward pause I ad-libbed – “”Honestly, it‟s my baby‟s, but I borrow it when I get nervous.” They laughed, and I got the account! Public speaking is an exercise in anticipating the unexpected, but by using humor and preparation, you can avoid – or cope with – the pitfalls, and use speaking to enhance your business. These 5 tips will help you get the most out of your next speaking opportunity: PERSONALIZE. Find your unique voice. What is it about you that people respond to and like? Capitalize on your strengths, rather than turning yourself into a carbon copy of everyone else. Start with your genuine self, at your most confident, and THEN add the polish. PREPARE YOUR SPEECH. There are all sorts of methods, so try a few and see which works best for you. Write it out word for word, edit, and memorize , speak it aloud into a tape recorder, transcribe, then memorize , develop an outline and memorize the introduction and conclusion. After your first draft, edit, edit, edit – every time you work on it you‟ll find new ideas. POLISH. There are tons of books, videos and coaches out there on formal presentation skills. Some of their information can be helpful, but you don‟t need to turn into a politician or lose your genuine self in the process. Make their techniques work for you – for example, most coaches recommend broad slow gestures, but if they‟re not comfortable, it shows. A few general tips apply to almost everyone: Slow down – audiences don‟t know the material and need time to take it in. Posture –you don‟t need to stand like a marine, but make sure your weight is evenly distributed, and imagine a string pulling you up from the back of the top of your head. Gestures – use slower, bigger versions of gestures that are already natural for you. Voice – listen to yourself on tape and make sure the pitch and quality are pleasant. PRACTICE. Practicing improves any kind of speaking, from formal presentation to a 20-second „elevator pitch‟. Try a variety of techniques: Audio and/or video-record yourself – you see and hear immediately what to fix . Work in front of a mirror – great for posture, gestures, etc. Try a sympathetic audience – a good friend, business partner or spouse . PREVENT. Anticipate various things that typically go wrong in speaking situations, and come up with responses. Here are a few ideas to get you started. Stage fright – even the most seasoned speakers get it, and fighting stage fright just intensifies the symptoms (shortness of breath, nausea, sweatiness, etc.). The trick is to control your breathing, which will slow down your heart rate and ease the adrenaline rush – slow in & out breaths through the mouth, with a pause in between, are easy and effective, or check out meditation techniques, yoga, etc. Technical Mishaps – Powerpoint is famous for going out at key moments, so always make sure you have your material in print with you. When you have a sound system, make sure you get to try the equipment before the speech, and make friends with the tech people! Cell phones – No matter how many times you remind people, a phone will go off or someone will start clicking away. If you feel comfortable, try diffusing the situation with humor. (One speaker announces “if your cell phone goes off, we‟ll assume it‟s your birthday and sing to you”; When I see someone blatantly texting, I say something like “No, tell Oprah I‟m not available until NEXT week.”) Scowlers – Even seasoned performers like Whoopi Goldberg have said that their eyes always go to the one frowning person in any large crowd, so it‟s human nature to be distracted by unfriendly faces. Try to keep refocusing on the smiling, happy people who are enjoying your talk, and remember the scowl often has nothing to do with you. (A colleague of mine was thrown by a particularly sour-looking woman in the front row; the woman approached him after the speech, and when he braced himself for a critique, she said, “Honey, your speech was so good, I almost laughed out loud.”) By personalizing, preparing, polishing, practicing, and preventing, you can give a speech that will reflect the best of you, enhance your business visibility, and make you look great – even if you end up with a pacifier in your hand! For more articles like this, visit www.ladieswholaunch.com, the first company to provide resources and connections exclusively for women entrepreneurs.
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