Let’s be honest here: if all you do is sit in your car listening to podcasts about the rules of hockey, don’t expect to be Sidney Crosby.
Public speaking is a physical activity - like hockey, football, or soccer. As a public speaker, you are a type of athlete because speaking involves physicality, muscle memory, and humanity. Your presentation needs to be in your body in the same way you have “Happy Birthday” in your head. Practice gets your ideas into your body, so that you can call them forth at will.
The true professional knows and relies upon this Speaker Triple Play:
Every ball thrown in football intentionally seeks a receiver, every puck in hockey is intended for a net. Likewise, every message needs a receiver. Focus on your audience so that you do not lose them.
Why are you up there giving this talk? It had better not be just to show your employees you’re important or to hear yourself speak. Don’t try and prove the initials after your name.
Intention is the motherlode. It’s what you give to someone else. Ask yourself these questions to clarify your intention:
What are you trying to give your audience?
What do you want them to feel when you speak?
What do you want them to remember and act on tomorrow, next week, next month?
How will you walk your talk? Will you effectively deliver your message or sabotage it? Put in the hard work of physical practice with your speech. Beckham said it best: “My secret is practice.”
But what exactly is practice when it comes to public speaking? To better understand, let’s look at 5 go-to habits that are actually sabotaging our best intentions:
Habit 1. DEFAULT INTENTIONS
If your default line is, “I want to empower you to,” well get in line because a thousand other corporate types have said that before you. What is the real idea you want to communicate? It’s a wonderful intention but it’s an opportunity to get more.
I can hear you say, “But Lauren, all I’m going to do is review Q1 results in the boardroom.” Nevertheless, you still have to get the point across with truth and a jovial professionalism. If the message is a difficult one, don’t walk on eggshells.
Habit 2: MEMORIZING
Know your talk the way you know how to sing “Happy Birthday”. You can make your talk a “Happy Birthday” experience because you know the feeling you want to convey, the connection you want to make, and the concrete take-aways you want to give.
Enlist the help of a friend or colleague and deliver your presentation with that person as if you were chatting over coffee. Your talk will get into your body in a more natural way and you’ll remember it once on your feet.
Habit 3: MAKING LOVE TO THE PODIUM
Stop embracing the podium. Stand openly, facing your audience without a barrier. You can hold your speaking notes in your hand - your audience knows you’re speaking from notes even when you hide them on the podium. Be fearless and show the notes. They won’t think less of you and they may think more of you because of your honesty.
Habit 4: THE POWERPOINT IMPULSE
Do you really need that PowerPoint slide? I’ll let you in on a secret: slides distract your audience from you. They are no longer listening to you, instead, they are reading the slide. If you need support for the point you are making, think of how it can be conveyed visually. A picture is still worth a thousand words.
Habit 5: WING AND A PRAYER
The more you sweat in practice, the less you bleed in battle. Public speaking can be a stressful experience and that alone is reason not to “wing it” with a few hasty notes and no practice. By contrast, if you do everything you can to prepare and practice your message and to connect with your audience, you will give a great presentation. Courage under stress arises from the discipline you bring to your presentation and discipline comes from habit.
Remember, “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” - Will Durant.
Next: The Sense-Sational Presentation – Using Five Senses in Your Presentation.