Delivering a speech is a
powerful means of communicating information. Even in the Internet era, there's
still no equal to the speech as a vehicle for sharing one's thoughts with a
live audience. And there are no lack of issues in any professional's work that
lend themselves to a talk at one of many available venues.
Carefully prepared, skillfully
delivered presentations are critical for helping you and your organization achieve
their fundamental business objectives. To fully realize this potential, you
must elevate public speaking opportunities to central stage in your organization's
overall communications strategy.
In other words, public speaking
is a strategic communications tool. This statement means that:
- Invitations to speak
are evaluated based on the opportunities they offer the organization to communicate
with key audiences. Invitations then are prioritized and assigned to appropriate
individuals in your organization, or declined if they appear to offer little
- Speaking opportunities
are solicited before audiences upon whom the success of your organization
- You recognize that every
speaking opportunity is different.
- You recognize that every
audience is different.
- You commit to prepare
and practice all presentations.
Let's take a closer look
at the latter three points.
There is no presentation
that you can develop and use at any occasion. Every speaking engagement is fundamentally
different. One key difference concerns the situation in which you'll be speaking.
You could be giving a stand-alone talk, or a presentation as part of a panel.
The two situations require different types of preparation.
With stand-alone talks,
you can focus solely on preparing and delivering your remarks. Other speeches
at the same event don't directly determine what you say and how long you have
to say it, although it's important to understand how your presentation fits
into the overall event.
Panel presentations offer
greater challenges because each speech must "fit" into a designated theme. An
effective moderator ensures that individual presenters are familiar with each
other's prepared remarks so their comments overlap as little as possible, and
that each speaker remain within the allotted timeframe. Many people are not
skilled moderators, so it's incumbent on the individual speakers to communicate
with fellow panelists prior to the event.
The audience also makes
every speech unique. Each audience has its own collective expectations, values,
and experience in relation to the topic about which you are to speak. It's vital
to incorporate this perspective into your remarks.
Studying materials on the
organization sponsoring the event is worthwhile. Secure a list of attendees
to determine if there will be familiar faces (friendly or unfriendly) in the
crowd. Contact attendees before the speech to gauge their expectations.
You also need to prepare
and practice your presentation well in advance of the actual event. Given what's
resting on your talk, "winging it" won't work. More important, you want to make
sure that the speech communicates your organization's business objectives clearly
and succinctly, without appearing like a commercial. Input from other staff
is helpful, especially when obtained far enough in advance of your talk to be
effectively incorporated into it.
Preparation also is necessary
for the question and answer session that follows a speech. You should:
- Prepare answers to questions
most likely to be asked. Include difficult, even controversial questions as
well as straightforward ones. Rehearse your answers beforehand.
- Answer questions succinctly,
with one or two sentences. This approach allows you to respond to many questions.
Depending on the number of hands raised, you can give longer answers to some
This preparation will enable
you to use the question and answer session to expand on key messages in your
talk, while solidifying your standing in the eyes of the audience as a knowledgeable,
Clearly, there's a lot more
to public speaking that one might imagine. Experienced speakers understand this,
and work hard to hone their skills. In so doing, these professionals have grasped
what it means to use public speaking as a strategic communications tool.
2000 Mitchell Friedman This material cannot be copied on any medium without
express written permission of Mitchell Friedman)