How we speak and act can have a great impact on our leadership style. Your voice is the church bell of your intellect. How you speak when training your sales staff or speaking in public is vital when it comes to leadership. I've been asked many times in seminars to give a few tips that other speakers and managers can use during their next sales meeting, addressing their local chamber of commerce, or at their next national conference.
There is no secret. Most of the time it takes, practice, practice, practice, and more practice when perfecting your speech. A good rule of thumb is that for every minute of a great preparation (and you only want them great) it can take up to an hour of practice. There are no shortcuts in practice for great speech delivery.
Here are a few pointers so that the next time you are up on stage you can nail it:
1. Always have a professional speaker introduce you, especially at major national conferences. I have seen great speakers ruined by having someone from the sponsoring organization, who has never been on stage, introduce them. Your introduction sets the tone for your entire speech. Make sure someone who is experienced in speaking introduces you. Early in my speaking career, I developed a great relationship with -- and I've always called him The Voice -- "Radio" Wayne Cornils. It was one of my dreams to be introduced by Wayne at a Radio Advertising Bureau convention. Once he introduced me the first time, I now make it a point and to ask him to introduce me at every RAB convention. Talk about setting the tone for the seminar. Wayne Cornils had them riveted to their seats before one syllable came out of my mouth. People knew if Wayne was introducing you they were getting the best. Perception is reality and I'm no dummy.
2. Never end your speech with a question-and-answer session. Address people's questions after the speech unless it is unwired. Remember that you must be in control when you are speaking. Q&A gives the control to the audience.
3. Find out who the previous two or three speakers were who addressed the group. You'll want to know what they talked about so there isn't any duplication in material.
4. Stay on time! Don't go over. I don't care if it's a five-minute speech or a full-day seminar. Stay on course. Cut off your material if you must and you can tell them to call or email you for anything you missed in the material you handed out. People want to know when the breaks are and when they are going home. Going overtime can wreak havoc at the end of your presentation because people leave when they think the presentation should be over.
5. Do your homework! If you are going to give a speech at the National Association of Broadcasters/Radio Advertising Bureau then know your territory. More specifically, know the demo and gender of your audience. Know current economies and what's going on in the world. Knowing your material is vital, knowing how it impacts them in their specific markets is crucial.
6. Never be undersold. Room size is the most critical aspect of your speech, believe it or not. You don't want empty seats in your room. The front row should be as close to where you are speaking as possible, giving you instant contact with your audience. Depending on the formality of the speaking engagement, I like to be close and come off the platform/stage which gives the audience a sense of comfort and intimacy. If you have to, rope off the last couple of rows if you think the room is going to be too big. If you anticipate having 100 people attend your seminar, set the room for 80. Standing room only is what you want. People will feel they attended the best seminar if they know it was sold out.
7. Ask for critiques. You are always trying to get better; this is the best way to do it. If the organization for which you are speaking has surveys, look at them. If they don't provide any kind of ratings survey for the speech, then come up with one of your own and include it in your handout.
8. Always have a technician in the room. I always make sure I have one, especially when I start the speech or seminar. Sometimes you can have it all ready to go 15 minutes before you speak and for some reason, Mr. Murphy (Murphy's Law) shows up and something might not work. How you start your speech is everything. Also, when the audio and video get stuck, know how to roll with it and always have a back-up plan. Silence for more than 30 seconds can be deafening to a speech. Rule of thumb, I always walk the room the night before the speech and always have it ready and wired up one hour before the speech -- even if I'm in my yoga pants.
9. If you have to, turn down doing the speech. If for any reason you feel you are not qualified to speak to that audience, forget it. It's better to turn it down than go ahead. Word of mouth gets around, and you don't want anyone bad mouthing your speech.
10. Get testimonials. The first thing to ask for after a successful speech is to get a testimonial from the sponsor. This goes a long way toward booking future speeches and establishes a good track record.
Bonus: Tape the tops of the doors. Know your room and know the exits. People do have to go to the washroom even if they know your break times. In many rooms, you have tall doors that have latches when you close the door. You don't want distractions when people have to get up and leave to go to the washroom. Take some gray duct tape and tape off the top of the latches on the doors. That way it's silent when people leave and come back and people can stay focused on you.
An Even Dozen: They come to hear you speak! They don't come to see 60 PowerPoint slides in 30 minutes. If they did, then that's not a speech/seminar. Rock their world and rise above the clutter!
Sean Luce is the Head National Instructor for the Luce Performance Group International and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org orwww.luceperformancegroup.com.