Jonathan Begley

December 15, 2009


Filed under: Development,Public Speaking — jonathanbegley @ 8:56 pm

There are few tasks in life that can be as fulfilling or as painful as public speaking.  Some people just can’t get enough of themselves with a microphone.  They flock to every opportunity to speak even when they have nothing relevant to say.  Many of these “gabbers” neglect their audience, never bothering to stop to think whether what they are saying is interesting or valuable in any way.

On the opposite side of the spectrum are those people who shy away from the spotlight.  These people often are content with allowing these “gabbers” to have the floor even though they have interesting and valuable things to say.  How many of us have left conferences and meetings feeling confused and frustrated at the lack of progress?  We feel this way because there is nothing of value being said, no direction, and no purpose.

Just because someone enjoys having a microphone in their hand does not mean that they should be allowed to have one.  There is a time and a place for those people to stand and hear themselves talk.  And just because you may not feel comfortable with that microphone in your hand does not mean that you don’t have anything of value to say, so speak up. 

So how do we bring value, direction, and purpose?  How can we be the speaker who energizes the audience and inspires action?  It all comes down to being prepared. 

Know your audience.  The same message can be taken many different ways by many different groups.  Knowing your audience will enable you to tailor your message to meet their needs.  It allows you to highlight what they want to hear.  Knowing your audience allows you to anticipate questions or concerns they may have. 

Watch your audience.  Look for signs of fidgeting, for yawning.  Also look for eye contact, for note taking, for nodding.  There are countless body language clues that can help you know when to elaborate, when to move on, or when to ask for questions.  Pausing periodically for questions will allow your audience to get back on the same page with you.  You want them listening to what you are saying, not thinking about their question. 

Most of all, know what you want to say.  Have a short outline if that helps, some bullet points that will help you stay focused on the end goal.  If you should happen to get stuck for any reason, there is nothing wrong with pausing for questions and looking at your notes.  Remember, your notes should be very brief, simple talking points.  The more you write down the less likely it is you will follow them.

With a few hours of preparation and some careful observance of your audience you can turn a frustrated and confused group into an inspired one ready to take your ideas into action.  Some personalities are more comfortable on stage, but some messages are more memorable.

What do you think?  Who are some great speakers and why?


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