Be better at public speaking
Picture the scene: You’re seated at a conference with a number of venture capitalists. As usual they are looking for an idea, existing business or an entrepreneur they could invest in. The next speaker on stage is a successful entrepreneur in his thirties. He had twenty minutes to showcase himself, his brand, business, accomplishments to date and the necessity for expansion (which is why the investment was needed).
As the CEO and Ambassador of the business, this twenty minutes was an opportunity to tell a winning story, shine, excite and engage the audience (especially those with the money) in order to fund his expansion plans.
Invited by the organisers as a guest to take notes and give feedback, I witnessed the twenty minutes come and sadly, go.
The venture capitalist sitting next to me made a remark that said it all – “What is this guy on about? – I didn’t get it”
The entrepreneur on stage had all the credentials to get the funding. But he had failed to get the attention of his audience. He failed to engage them. He failed to deliver his message with clarity. He failed to present with power. He failed to command presence. He failed to tell an amazing story (which he actually had). And by now, you guessed it, he failed to get the funding needed.
Many professionals have worked hard to get to where they are. But in the process, many have overlooked the critical skill of public speaking. Not just to get up and speak (the Middle East rarely harbours individuals with low self-confidence), but to actually speak with impact. Having developed the art of delivering a message that’s sharp and on point.
Have you attended a talk, presentation or conference speech where you wondered to yourself, ‘What on earth is going on? What is this person saying? Why am I even here?’ Perhaps (in a moment of absolute self honesty) you have been guilty of delivering one of those presentations or speeches?
There was a room full of people ready to write out cheques for an idea or business, and a hungry entrepreneur on the other end seeking it. Yet because of the oversight and incompetence to speak effectively, this was yet another “No Deal”. An absolute waste.
I am continuously amazed to see professionals from different business segments who fail to realise the importance of refining their public speaking ability. This is insanity at its highest point. Your ability to present with power and speak with impact reflects on your audience will view you as a professional, your ideas, business, brand and ultimately your credibility and competency.
Only because someone you are great at your profession, have a successful business, a great reputation, run deep connections, have a winning idea or successful story to tell, doesn’t automatically translate to having the skill to speak with impact. When was the last time you saw a great pilot perform open heart surgery?
Like every other skill, public speaking requires you to take the time to learn, practice and refine. There are numerous elements to work on before, during and after any presentation/speech. But if you’ve got something coming up this week, here are SIX quick tips to help you through:
1. When preparing, ask yourself the all important question- What is the purpose of your talk? The answer should form the basis of what you are going to say.
2. Prepare a clear structure. It is imperative that you deliver your message in a way that makes sense to yourself and more importantly to your audience. If it is a hazy in your mind, it will be a sandstorm for the audience.
3. Avoid putting your audience to sleep. Do not read off your slides. If they wanted to have a reader, they would have hired a pretty model with a beautiful voice. Slides are designed to help you make a point. Use pictures to arouse feelings.
4. Practice your presentation or speech in advance. If others make it look easy, it is because they work extremely hard to make it come across naturally. The comedian Chris Rock is considered as one of the best stand up acts in history. Yet, with all his talent, he had his 7 minute Oscar speech ready for rehearsal three months in advance. The best work the hardest.
5. Start your presentation or speech in a way that gets the attention of your audience. The standard “hello, thank you for having me, my name is….” does not work. Start different. Start with a quote. Start with an analogy. Start with a startling fact. Just not the same standard boring stuff.
6. Finish inside of your time allocation. Never go over your time. Leave your audience wanting more. You will thank me for this.
What happened to the entrepreneur who failed to get funding at the conference? We worked together over the course of a few months and at the very next opportunity he had to speak, funding was secured for the expansion of his business.
A common result when you learn to speak with impact.
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Kevin Abdulrahman is a renowned public speaking coach who has worked with entrepreneurs, thought leaders, public figures, CEOs, Presidents and Royalty. His thoughts in this column are his own and are not necessarily reflected by Esquire Middle East. His book “60 Minutes To Better Public Speaking” is available on Amazon in 30+ languages. For more visit: KevInspire.com