OK, not my best picture but I’m standing in front of City Hall, Kansas City, MO. I spoke there today at a local Toastmasters group. For the first time in my 20 years of professional speaking, someone asked me to speak on this art form I so dearly love.
Here are the highlights from my speech:
“WHAT’S THE #1 FEAR SHARED BY ALL HUMAN BEINGS? Most people say, ‘Public Speaking—people fear it more than dying!’ But, that’s not true—I speak to thousands of people each year and I’M WAY MORE AFRAID OF DYING. In fact, I LOVE speaking.”
“No, the #1 FEAR PEOPLE HAVE IS BEING EMBARASSED. A speaker who has mastered the basics is confident, at ease, even eager. Master these 5 Basics of Public Speaking as remembered by the acronym S.P.E.A.K.
*S* STAND LIKE OWN THE SPACE—IF you don’t feel like you belong in front of the crowd then no one else will, either.
EXTERNALLY: Practice with one or two people and then more until you feel like you are deserving of the attention you are receiving.
INTERNALLY: Most speakers ask themselves the wrong question. The whole time they are speaking they are thinking, “How am I doing.” THIS IS THE WRONG
QUESTION. They should be looking into everyone’s eyes and thinking, “Are you with me.”
*P* PACING IS…(wait for it)…EVERYTHING—Force yourself to pause during your speech and take a breath from time to time. Most speakers ramble on afraid that they will lose their audience if they pause. This makes them MORE LIKELY to lose people.
Taking a two to five second pause from time to time let’s some people CATCH UP and other people WAKE UP. Those people who are hanging on your every word will appreciate the respite to marinate in your wisdom. Those who have drifted off into their own thoughts will wonder, ‘Why’s it so quiet all of a sudden?’ and they’ll return their focus to you.
*E* ENHANCE YOUR ATTENTION AND WARMTH—Ask yourself, what’s the most desirable characteristic for a public speaker? Answer: Charisma.
In “The Charisma Myth” Olivia Fox Cubane gives us the formula.
CHARISMA = POWER + ATTENTION + WARMTH
If you are standing in front of people as the speaker, you already have power! Now, look people in the eye (attention) and, when appropriate, give a genuine smile (warmth). This will automatically make you charismatic.
*A* ARMS—“What do I do with my hands when I’m speaking?” is a question that throws many newbie speakers into a tailspin.
Here’s a simple and practical suggestion. Go to your local CVS, Walgreens or other store and buy 2 inexpensive slings like one would wear after shoulder surgery. Put both your arms in slings and practice your speech moving your hands as you do. This will give you a nice, comfortable and appropriate range of motion until the you become more confident.
*K* KINDNESS—People won’t always remember what you say, but they will remember how you made them feel. Whether it be a speech to ten thousand people or a passing one-to-one chat, do your best to make sure that what you say is the high point of their day. And you do this by being kind.
So, that’s my tips for speakers. If you know anyone who is developing their speaking skills, feel free to share this.