Remember, one of Mimi’s Laws of Great Speaking: “Never make an audience nervous.” It’s not just that the audience is reminded of 8th grade speech class, it’s that they are way more sophisticated now. With the advent of TED Talks, people are used to well-structured excellence from the speaker on stage. They expect you to be smart, polished, and definitely not nervous.
Regarding being “smart,” I always say to my clients, “When you are presenting your product or service, you need to know 100 times more material about your subject than you actually will say in the speech.” Here’s why: The speech is just the skeleton of the subject on which you are an expert. It’s the juicy high points of the book you wrote, or will write. You can’t put EVERYTHING you know into the speech. When a client on my other couch insists, “We’ve gotta put this part in the speech! It’s so good!” I say, “it is good, and it’s good for your book – not the speech.” Sometimes, I actually get a manila file folder and wave it in front of the client, and say “we’re going to put all that good stuff into your book!” And then, I take their notes, put them into the file folder, and label it, “The Book.” Part of it is discipline, and part of it is that audiences don’t expect a speech to be dense in content. They don’t want to figure out what you are saying. Remember, a speech is not in writing. The audience can’t look back to see what you were talking about. A speech is linear and temporal. It is said and then it is gone.
When you “wing it,” that is, you think you know your content so well you can “just talk” about it, you are trusting your brain to think in a linear fashion. Ahh! Not so fast my friend! What if it doesn’t? What happens when you draw a blank? Do you root around in your notes, right in front of the audience, muttering “it’s here somewhere….?” The audience is thinking, “don’t waste my time struggling! Life is hard enough. I don’t wanna watch people struggle! I don’t even watch the news before I go to bed.”
Here are 3 steps to not “winging it:”
1) Memorize your introduction very well. I say “Lead With Their Need,” so you will prepare an intro that points out the pain, need, or situation of your audience. It’s why they need to hear the solutions your product or service provides. When they are engaged, they will lean in and listen. They are ready to learn and be entertained.
2) Learn your speech in “thought groups.” Point – story – repeat point. The story anchors the point. It’s proof your point works. When you memorize word for word, missing a word can trip you up. Horrors!
3) Have a great ending with a “call to action.” People need to know what to do next to engage your services. Rehearse your ending so it’s smooth. Most important – be passionate about it –lots of energy! To see how to do that, here are 2 short videos.
I know, it sounds like a lot of work. Too bad. Speaking in front of people is a privilege, so respect your audience.