It is time for people to recognize that public speaking is not some hidden mystery but in reality, nothing more than communicating, and in this, public speaking is no different from having a conversation.
Public speaking, when done well, like fine wine or classical music, shows the potential we have as people and brings us that much closer to our true potential. With nothing more than words, we are capable of starting wars, ending wars, causing markets to tumble, and reassuring millions after a national tragedy. That is truly an amazing reality to ponder.
PRINCIPLE #1 PERCEPTION
Stop Trying to Be a Great Public Speaker
“ Always bear in mind that your own resolution to succeed is more important than any one thing.” —Abraham Lincoln
If public speaking is the art of effective oral communication with an audience, isn’t that what these individuals at the dinner were doing in the first place? Nowhere does the definition of public speaking say that you have to be standing or that you have to be delivering a speech on topics of sweeping world change. All it says is that you have to have effective oral communication with an audience (and notice there isn’t even a size requirement).
let’s understand what public speaking does not have to be. It doesn’t have to be marked by fiery rhetoric or passionate pleas for change. It doesn’t have to be funny. It doesn’t have to be long. It doesn’t have to be profound. So, what does it have to be?
You know the answer to this already, because you’ve had to listen to speeches in your life. The best speakers are the ones who do nothing more than have a conversation with their audience. Isn’t that really what made FDR so effective in those fireside chats—his ability to talk to the nation over a radio and reassure millions of people that we would survive the Great Depression? In reality, it was a simple conversation that made a great president connect with people in their living rooms.
The best public speakers are those who seem to genuinely enjoy giving a speech. Because they’re relaxed, we’re relaxed. Great speakers speak to us, not at us, and the most effective public speaking is a relaxed and comfortable conversation between a speaker and his or her audience.
Stop for a moment and reread this last statement. Isn’t this what you do every single day in regular conversation with your friends, family, and co-workers? You talk comfortably, and you speak with them, as opposed to at them.
PRINCIPLE #2 PERFECTION
When You Make a Mistake, No One Cares but You
“ While one person hesitates because he feels inferior, the other is busy making mistakes and becoming superior.” —Henry C. Link
Please write down the names of three public speakers who have never made a mistake while speaking in public in their entire speaking careers.
Of course you know already that you will never be able to write down three names
When you make a mistake, no one cares but you.” It’s not called, “If you make a mistake, no one cares but you.”That’s because even the most accomplished public speaker will, at times, make a mistake. The important thing to remember is that no one cares but you.
No one cares? Really?
Yes, really. No one cares. Odds are that they don’t even know you made a mistake.
People’s attention spans constantly wander. In fact, most people only absorb about 20 percent of a speaker’s message. They visually internalize the other 80 percent. This ratio is true in nearly everything from a football game or your favorite television show to a heart-to-heart conversation.
Think for a moment about your own life. How many times this past week have you caught your mind wandering? When was the last time you were actually concentrating so intently on driving your car that you didn’t have one hand on the radio dial, the other hand holding a cup of coffee, and you only changed positions to shift gears—all the while carrying on a conversation? All of us have minds that wander. It’s a natural human tendency, and it is especially true when our only cues are verbal—for example, when reading a book about public speaking (even one as imaginative and entertaining as this!)
PRINCIPLE #3 VISUALIZATION
If You Can See It, You Can Speak It
“ The human brain starts working the moment you’re born and never stops until you stand up to speak in public.” —Anonymous
Right now, so many of us have a great fear of public speaking because we don’t do it that often. We don’t have to get up in front of people, so our minds aren’t used to it. Train your mind. Train your mind to become used to it. Train your mind to focus on it. Train your mind to believe that this feels good and this is a comfortable environment. When you do it enough, and you stand in front of a room, you will feel relaxed and comfortable and confident because your mind is used to it.
The more real you can make your visualization, the better. In other words, if you have to give a speech next week in front of your company board of directors, it’s good for you to picture that boardroom as precisely as you can. Picture the paneling. Picture the wood. Picture where the seats are and how high they are. Are there windows? Is there sunlight? Is there natural light, artificial light? The more detail you can visualize, the better. If you can picture the people that you’ll be speaking to sitting in those chairs, that’s great. And if you can do this, and if you can see yourself in front of that group, in that room, practicing, talking, and giving that speech, then your mind won’t know the difference between the real speech and your visualized speech. When the day comes on which you really have to give that speech, you’ll stand up there and will feel a sense of relaxation because you’ve already done this. You’ve done it in your mind, and that is the secret of champions.
If Michael Jordan can practice a shot over and over in his mind until he gets it right and consequently go down in history as one of the greatest players—maybe the greatest player—the sport has ever known, then you can use the same technique in your journey to becoming an effective communicator.
PRINCIPLE #4 DISCIPLINE
Practice Makes Perfect
“ I will prepare and some day my chance will come.” —Abraham Lincoln
The five minutes before you are called to the podium or to the front of the boardroom to give your remarks are your most crucial five minutes as a speaker. The Crucial 5s are often the difference between “just okay” and being at the top of your game. Capturing that intensity, that burning desire, is something each one of us must do before we stand on our feet.
How do we do it?
The best way is to mentally picture yourself successfully taking the podium and addressing the crowd. In the ideal situation, find a spot alone, backstage, close your eyes and picture the scenario, and tell yourself positive affirmations that will help you succeed. But even if you are sitting in a roomful of people in the company boardroom, you can still achieve this mental advantage. Simply, with your eyes open or closed, picture yourself in front of the room, and tell yourself your specific positive affirmations.
For many of us, the answer to the first question is usually, “I feel anxious.” If this was your answer, then proceed to ask yourself why. Why do I feel anxious? What about getting up to give this speech causes me this anxiety? Depending on your answer, you can craft your personal affirmation statement.
For example, if you wrote, “I am worried that people will think I don’t know what I am talking about,” then a positive affirmation to tell yourself during The Crucial 5s might be something like this:
I am prepared. I know this material. I know this topic. The audience is going to understand the depth of knowledge and appreciate my subject matter. But I recognize that not 100 percent of the audience will feel this way and that’s okay. I am prepared. I am ready.
PRINCIPLE #5 DESCRIPTION
Make It Personal and Become a Storyteller
“ For the end of speech is not ostentation, but to be understood.” —William Penn
think back for a moment to any memorable speech that you’ve heard. Perhaps it was a graduation address, or a religious message, or a corporate speech—any speech that has stayed in your memory. By any chance did the speaker tell a story? Chances are that he or she did, and that it is the story that you are remembering.
Whatever your opinion is concerning who can or cannot be a “good” public speaker, all of us have it within us to be great storytellers. And stories are critical to human connection.
Consider another example from the world of entertainment. Your favorite movies, plays, or songs are all stories about something. Some of my favorite movies involve a hero going on a journey of discovery and becoming a better person through it. Others are great love stories in which a man and a woman struggle in a relationship, but then end up living “happily ever after.”Whatever the plot, the movie or play is a story about something.
People don’t want to be inundated with data. What they really want is to hear something interesting, something that will help them grow while capturing their attention, something that they can take away with them.
So, let’s give them what they want.
PRINCIPLE #6 INSPIRATION
Speak to Serve
“ As long as there are human rights to be defended, as long as there are great interests to be guarded, as long as the welfare of nations is a matter for discussion, so long will public speaking have its place.” —William Jennings Bryan
The most effective communicators are the ones who not only make us feel comfortable and relaxed but also have a purpose in what they’re trying to say—and when we listen to them, we understand our personal stake in the subject. Good speakers relate to us, and we feel a connection. And this is true regardless of the topic of the speech.
When you think about it, the objective of most speeches is not to benefit the speaker but to benefit the audience, and in all likelihood, the purpose of your presentation is, in some way, to help your audience through teaching, motivation, entertainment, or education. While the audience’s focus may be on you, you’re not the most important party in the room—your audience is.Your ultimate focus should be helping the audience. In practical terms, this means that in all your preparation and presentation,
think about how you can help your audience members achieve their goals.
When you do this, your role as a speaker becomes a role of service to the needs of the audience, and this is a great way to make a human connection. If you can remember this one fact, then public speaking becomes less an act of fear and more an opportunity to serve others.
PRINCIPLE #7 ANTICIPATION
Always Leave Your Audience Wanting More
“ Be sincere. Be brief. Be seated.” —Abraham Lincoln
since most people feel they need a tremendous amount of time to get their point across, but if that is the case, then your speech is probably filled with cute stories or funny lines that serve no purpose in helping you prove your point and stay on message. We hold an audience’s attention not with cute stories and funny jokes but with interesting, relevant points that prove the point of our thesis.
Besides, if you’ve followed the first six principles, then you already have your audience’s attention and interest
How long should a speech be? Long enough to convey all the necessary information and not a second longer.
As speakers, we must always maintain the goal of getting in and getting out. And of course convey the information somewhere in between. Do it in a way that’s informative. Make it enjoyable, and then give your listeners the opportunity to get on with their lives. If you can do this as a speaker, you will leave your audience wanting more, and you will leave them happy that they had the opportunity to listen to you speak. Perhaps most important, you will never hear anyone say, “Wow, that speaker loves the sound of his own voice!”