I received a invitation to speak at an IT event recently. When I enquired about the speaker fee, I was informed that there would be no fee, rather I would be speaking to over 50 people, who were future potential clients (through them or through people they know). Having made  a decision a number of years ago to cease providing fee speaking engagements but before saying no, I thought about it. I hadn’t delivered a speech like this in a while, so I felt it would be good to do it and push out my comfort zone again i.e. back to where it was, so I said yes.

Knowing some people in the audience i.e. former attendees at previous training courses and some private clients, I felt that this had to be delivered well. And with no fee involved, I had to impress the audience so as to secure some form of follow up enquiries (at least).

The speech title that I was requested to deliver upon could have been done off the cuff, as I knew it so well, however, I decided to prepare as much as possible. I put my structure and content on paper first, chose a speaking medium and then set out times in my day to practice and polish the delivery, to the point where I was looking forward to it, with anxiousness reducing and confidence increasing.

When the evening arrived, I was the second speaker, choosing second to compare myself to the first speaker and then adjust my delivery accordingly, if needed and if appropriate. The first speaker used a microphone and PowerPoint, where I didn’t on both counts. I focused on saying every letter in every word, pausing for effect and adding the music to my voice.

I was happy with my performance,  as were the audience based on feedback and I have since received five enquiries.

Moral of the story, as in the title – Prepare, Prepare, Prepare…

When it comes to speaking in public in front of people, we feel we have to transform ourselves into a different person, someone the audience is impressed by, someone who pleases every member of the audience, someone who speaks like a professional, someone who the audience will remember as a great speaker.
Yes, all of the above are somewhat true, but not entirely. Yes, we do have to speak differently, but we have to be authentic i.e. we have to be ourselves when speaking in public. If we are not, our audience will not accept us, they will know that we are not being yourselves and will most definitely not remember us, if they do, it will be for the wrong reasons.
As a public speaker, we have to be unique, show our own personality, our own way of speaking with the following focuses:
• Know our subject (know everything about it, indeed be an expert. If we feel we are not, it may affect our delivery)
• Stand, look and feel professional (be confident, be enthusiastic, believe in what we are saying)
• We have important things to say to our audience (understand that our subject is of relevance to our audience and will help them in their job, career, business and / or personal life)
The word enthusiastic was mentioned earlier and this is probably the key area where we can shine as a public speaker. How can we be enthusiastic? We can be enthusiastic in three ways:
1. By projecting / inflecting our voice
2. By using our body language from head to toe
3. Speaking from the heart
By practicing, focusing and doing the above, we will deliver a public speech that our audience will enjoy, remember and see us as an accomplished public speaker, while all the time we are being us.
Push out our comfort zone and offer to do / say yes to a public speaking opportunity to let people see that – This is me, this is who I am…!

Job interviews have been and are transitioning to competency-based interviews over the past 3-5 years, where interviewers want interviewees to share examples of past experiences instead of giving them standard answers i.e. not telling them what they would do, but instead telling them what they did do in past and present job experiences.

Another area of the interview process that is changing too is the introduction or incorporation of interviewees delivering a presentation to the interviewers. This presentation usually takes place at the start or at the end of an interview process. It is normally on a topic relevant and related to the organisation where a product or service challenge is narrated in the form of a question and interviewees are requested to give their opinions / solutions to the challenge on PP slides over a 15-20 minute period.

If you are or feel you will have to deliver a presentation as part of a recruitment and selection process, do the following and win the day:

  • Brush up on your communication skills, know that this is the main reason they what you to present to them in the form of a presentation i.e. can you speak, are you a good communicator and are you passionate about them and the subject matter i.e. their product and / or service
  • Know more than they know about the organisation, its clients, customers, internal / external problems and challenges. Blow them away with your knowledge gained from a previous deep research process
  • Put yourself in the interviewers shoes i.e. how would they articulate this
  • Act as if you are already an employee of the organisation, but being respectful throughout
  • Be yourself in a professional manner i.e. authentic
  • Speak for the heart with an enthusiasm, an energy and an empathy that helps them to like you

…and ultimately hire you…

If you read any of the people-, human resource-, business-based magazines, journals and publications, there has, is and always will be articles linked directly or indirectly to leadership and leadership skills. In fact over the past number of years there has been a noticeable increase in the spoken and written word of leadership. Leadership is the word of today, and the future is depending on people to lead others, make decisions and see them through. Foundational to these people’s leadership skills is how they speak i.e. their communication skills. How do they get people to do what they want them to do, to do things that they may not want to do, to keep going until the job is done and indeed to foresee and plan for the next problem, challenge, task, project or issue?

From the studies on communication skills by experts across the world, we are educated in the fact that it is not what we are saying, but how we are saying it. People do listen to what you are saying, but they are more inspired, more motivated, more enthused by how you are saying it i.e. your tone of voice and your physiology. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes and think about how you can make them move, change and take action? Watch and listen to great speaking auditors who you admire, whether they are in the public eye or people you know through work, socially or personnally. Observe how they project their voice; add music to it; inflect their words; their facial expressions; their gestures, all leading to engaged listeners.

To develop these great communication skills is to learn the fundamentals and the know-how first and then practice them in the real world whenever you get the opportunity. In fact, attend public speaking classes, offer to speak at events / occasions (through your profession or socially) and become the inspired leader that people want to look up to…