Public Speaking, Delivering a Talk, Preparing a Speech / Script
Demosthenes, master statesman and orator, loved his city-state of Athens. He cherished its way of life and abundant freedoms. And he believed in standing strong against anyone who might attempt to infringe on these privileges. This passion, unfortunately, was seldom shared by his fellow Athenians. While Philip the II of Macedon made bolder and bolder incursions into the Greek peninsula, the Athenian people seemed stuck in an apathetic stupor. For years, Demosthenes employed his powerful oratorical skills in attempts to awaken his fellow citizens from sleep to the realization of the imminent danger Philip posed. When Philip advanced on Thrace, the Athenians called an assembly to debate whether or not to finally heed the great orator’s advice. Demosthenes was sick of his brethren taking liberty and the Athenian way of life for granted and he boldly called upon them to rise up and take action. After his rousing speech, the assembly all cried out, “To arms! To arms!”
The truth is, we like ourselves and we like talking about ourselves. The people in your life that you find likable and charismatic, though, let you be yourself and let you talk about yourself. Be positive, shut down your ego, and give your full attention. It really is that simple.
Pay attention to every word that comes out of someone else’s mouth. Imagine you’re watching a movie or reading a book and you’re slowly learning about the main character. Invest your attention and your focus on them. Most importantly, do not sit there and think about what you’re going to say while they talk. It might seem like the proactive thing to do, but it only shows that you’re not really listening, just preparing to retort.
Don’t think about how you’re going to respond while the person is still talking. We all have a tendency to do this. Our inner conversational narcissist wants to be ready to jump in and start talking as soon as there’s an opening. But if you’re thinking about what you’re going to say, you’re obviously not fully listening to what the other person is saying. It’s natural to want to have an idea of what you’re going to say before you say it, but it’s okay to work through your response as you’re giving it; embrace the pause. As we’ll discuss in the article on Power, it’s low-status individuals that talk the most and feel the need to fill every silence.
Think Kramer of Seinfeld fame when he slides through the door of Jerry’s apartment and discovers something surprising.
Or your grandmother, who throws her arms in the air and bends her knees when she sees you after a long absence.
Or my dog, Little Bear, who dances for joy when I come home at the end of the day.
People enjoy being around people (and animals) with a vocabulary of expressive gestures. Of course you don’t want to be clownish at work and act like Kramer, but gestures that are responsive to what’s happening in the moment and appropriate to the occasion are winning and appealing.
Gesture versus Gesticulation
Using your hands to help describe a point in your presentation is acceptable and effective. In fact, your listeners can lose up to 75 percent of your meaning if you don’t use your hands. Just make sure that you gesture and don’t gesticulate. What’s the difference? Gestures are deliberate, shaped and sustained for a purpose, whereas gesticulation can make you look like you’re being attacked by a swarm of bees.
Explicitly state the subject of your remarks. Doing so can be as simple as this example: “I’m here today to talk about the role of mentors in our work.”
Once a structure is established it forms your speech outline; state it in your introduction to offer a roadmap of your remarks and to provide listeners with a feeling of anticipation.
For example, “Today I’m going to tell you what the mentorship program has done for our organization. First it has attracted new volunteers from our priority communities. Second, it has allowed for a more meaningful connection between participants and our organization. And third, it has created an opportunity for that connection to be ongoing.”
Having introduced your speech structure in the introduction, restate each argument or section as you proceed, to make your speech easy to follow.
A great talk has brief sentences, with proper pacing and structure. Steve Jobs’ Stanford Commencement Address is a nice example of that. The speaker uses different types and styles of sentences, in a combination that gives a distinctive rhythm to the talk.
- Act as if you know where you are going, even if you aren’t 100% sure.
- Always leave something about yourself for people to guess at, never fully revealing your true intentions.
- Saints live their ideas without caring about the consequences.
- Slow everything down until your every action is riddled with poise.
- Act as if the world is your stage and all eyes are on you 24/7.
- Radiate dangerous, rebellious sexuality. Be spontaneous. Hold no agendas and be open to anything. Realize that death is inevitable and act as though you look forward to the experience. Be seen taking risks for the good of others.
- Imagine the public as one person whom you want to seduce.
- Develop a piercing gaze. Look in the mirror and play around with different looks until you find one that is powerful. Practice, practice, practice until the gaze is second-nature.