I recently attended a friend’s wedding in Berlin. It was a wonderful day and in the evening it was time for the obligatory speeches. The groom chose to give his speech in German, the language of his bride, rather than in his native tongue, and it was delivered in such a heartfelt, sincere and seemingly confident way that everyone in the room hung on his every word (regardless of whether they spoke German). He later told me that he had practised intensively every day beforehand and had worked hard on delivering his speech in a competent fashion. It paid off!
I learned a lot from this experience. As business owners, at some time or other, we all have to speak in public to some degree – for example when delivering a sales pitch or giving a presentation – and we all have nerves and some stage-fright (which by the way come with talent, as a famous actress used to say). So here’s what I learned from my friend:
1) Preparation is the name of the game. As the old kung fu wisdom goes: “It is better to sweat in practice than to bleed in battle.” If you’re going to speak in public, do your homework first. Find out who will be in the audience and what makes them tick. How can you appeal to them? What’s in it for them?
2) Learn as much as you can by heart and just stick to a few key points on a card (or slide). Too much text inhibits your delivery and you’ll lose valuable eye-contact with your listeners. Learning at least the first two sentences of your speech by heart is a winner every time and acts as a springboard to get you on your way.
3) Be you. What’s your USP? Authenticity can’t be learned. Sincerity can’t be faked well. If you’re saying words you can relate to, in a style that reflects how you normally speak, rather than trying to use too many difficult words and pepper your speech with jargon, you’ll come across as real. This authenticity will then rub off onto your brand and people will connect better with you. People buy from people. (However, be careful with opening jokes in a multi-cultural environment; sometimes people don’t share the same brand of humour.)
4) Speaking at safe environments such as family gatherings can be a valuable training ground. You can practise reaching the whole room with your voice (always speak from your diaphragm and take deep breaths before you start).
5) Ask for feedback afterwards. (My friend did this too). As Jack Canfield says: “Feedback is the breakfast of champions”.
6) And finally my own personal tip: Visualize your speech going well. Successful footballers, for example, visualize the ball hitting the back of the net before they strike a penalty. So run the film first. This positively programmes the brain and you’re more likely to attract a positive experience.