This is an article from the Harvard Business Review,
Friday March 4, 2011: blogs.hbr.org
Here's some of what I've learned in my years of public
speaking. If you have to knock it out of the park, follow these
Know your goal. When the speech is over, what do you want the
audience saying about it and you? What difference do you want to
make? Most speakers never ask this of themselves.
Memorize your speech. That's right. Memorize every word of it.
Deliver it in front of a mirror five times, six times, ten times.
Then deliver it while your kid is screaming in the background, to
develop the confidence that you can recite it no matter what
distraction pops up. Why memorize it? Because nothing will put an
audience to sleep faster than someone reading from a prepared
text. Because when you memorize it, it stops being about getting
the words right and starts being about getting the feeling right.
Imagine if Andrea Bocelli didn't memorize the words to the songs
in his repertoire. How much room do you think there would be for
him to feel them?
Practice the transitions. What will get you from one point to
the next? Is it "if," or "when," or "then I." Know and memorize
the precise construction of each transitional sentence. It's in
uncertainty about transitions from one point to the next that
people lose their grace in public and start saying "aaahhhh."
Don't fear silence. You want to silence a room? Don't
talk. Be silent and look at the audience. Five seconds. Seven
seconds. Just taking them in. Connecting with them. But never do
it for effect. Do it to get intimate with your audience. It
silences a room like you wouldn't believe. Why? Because it's not
normal. Audiences are used to speakers filling every nanosecond
with the sound of their own voice, leaving zero time for
reflection. Audiences are used to being avoided, not appreciated.
When they come upon someone who can command their own silence,
they understand, "This person is serious."
Never, ever, ever use PowerPoint as your speech notes.
The slides are for your audience, not for you. The moment they see
you rattling through a list of bullets that you should have had
the courtesy to memorize, they put you in a category with every
other boring presenter they've ever seen and you've lost them.
Give something of yourself. Don't be afraid to feel
something in front of an audience. Don't be afraid to say
something that will make you feel something, and that will make
the audience feel something.
Be yourself. Don't feel you need to mimic the
testosterone level of a motivational speaker. You will look and
feel fake. Robert Kennedy never tried to copy Martin Luther King's
rhetorical skills. RFK was soft-spoken. He owned that. And as a
result, was every bit as affecting as King.
Don't speak in abstractions. Say what it is that you
mean. Plainly. Avoid the lexicon of your own trade. People are
sick of it. It doesn't mean anything to them anymore. Speak in
Feel what's happening in the room and use it to connect
your speech to this moment. In this way, if your mike goes
out, you can make a joke out of it, rather than it making a
nervous wreck, and a joke, out of you.
Make eye contact until it scares you. Distribute your
eye contact around the room. Not for effect, but because you
genuinely want to connect with the people in front of you.
Don't miss your own talk. It is a privilege and an
honor to be asked to speak. Take the opportunity to commune with
other human beings. It's like getting to watch a falling star.
Come from a place of love for your audience. That's
mastery. When you allow yourself to feel the humanity of your
audience, you have succeeded in taking the focus off yourself.
There is a universe of difference between this place and a
PowerPoint presentation. This is the place from which change is
made. From here you can move mountains.