“There are two types of speakers; those that are nervous and those that are liars.”
— Mark Twain
Most of us put public speaking at the top of our list of things to avoid.
Then along comes that promotion or new opportunity, and with it, new responsibilities. Among them: communicating, powerfully and effectively in public. Before you rush to get out of that responsibility, or avoid it, consider what it can do for you.
It never ceases to amaze me how much this one ability, the ability to communicate powerfully and effectively, can impact our professional success. Become an effective communicator, and you will cement your reputation as an effective leader.
Yet many otherwise accomplished executives never learn to do it well and take pains to avoid having to speak in public at all.
That’s a lot of wasted opportunity. As someone once said, “You don’t plough a field by turning it over in your mind.” You can’t expect your ideas to be considered or followed, much less admired, if they’re not communicated well.
Ok. Speaking to a group, even to a small group you know well, can be intimidating. It’s not lethal. We can all get past the fear factor with practice. And what a reward awaits us when we do!
The important thing is to understand the power you have, that we all have, to communicate effectively. Don’t hide behind charts, graphs and power point slides. Don’t stand off to the far corner and let your materials speak for themselves. Materials can only support your communication, not substitute for it.
Once you’ve accepted that presentations really are about you and your ability to connect with your audience, organize your materials to allow you to speak with confidence.
Rather than adding more slides to fill more time, use fewer and leave plenty of time for interaction and questions and answers from your audience. Try getting your conclusions down first. What is it you really want your audience to remember from your presentation?
Keep an eye on those bottom line conclusions and never stray too far from them. Support them as best you can with data, facts, examples and stories, but remember that less is more when speaking in public. Your mission is to offer the big picture, the context, for your ideas. More details can be supplied in handouts and collaterals later.
Remember that you are the best promoter of your ideas. If you don’t sound as though you believe them and are enthusiastic about them, you can hardly expect your audience to supply the excitement for you.
Stay organized. If you get off track when answering questions, simply return to your two or three main messages. A certain amount of repetition of those messages will add power to your presentation, not detract from it. Your goal is to have anyone listening understand and be able to remember your two or three key points.
And remember, your audience came to hear you. Reward them with powerful ideas, clearly stated, and they’ll be back, willingly. Before long, you’ll be wondering how you ever considered communicating powerful ideas any other way!
Aileen Pincus is a former local and national television reporter and senior Senate Staff, now a leading executive communication coach, training corporate, government and non-profit executives in the art of communication. www.thepincusgroup.com