Always Prepare Your Speech
Episode #3 of the course Speak like a leader by Mark D’Silva
Welcome to Day 3. Yesterday, we focused on seizing opportunities to present. Today, let’s review the importance of always preparing your speech.
What I Learned from a CEO
A few years ago, I hosted a dinner for ten graduates who had successfully completed a public speaking program. I invited the CEO of the organization to present the graduates with their certificates. One of grads asked him if he had ever winged a speech.
The CEO replied, “I have never winged a speech nor dare I wing one in future. As a presenter and a leader, if you wing a speech, the audience will see right through you. By winging a presentation, you are also disrespecting the audience because you are essentially saying you could not be bothered taking the time to prepare to present to them. So, my advice to you is never, ever wing it.”
The message from our CEO is clear. If you have to speak, always prepare!
Write Out Your Speech in Full
The best way to prepare to your speech is to write it down. The advantages are two-fold:
• Wordsmithing. My grandmother taught me to play Scrabble. Her sage advice was to never play the first word that comes to mind. There is always a better word. When you write the entire speech, read over it and replace words with better words. Is there an opportunity to add a telling quote or a credible fact that encapsulates the point or even an insightful question to stimulate audience participation? The more time you spend on the draft, the better the outcome.
• Using all your main learning senses. More than 80% of learning is delivered through the combined senses of sight and sound. By looking at the words (sight) of your speech and saying the words aloud (sound), you are enabling yourself to deliver the speech well.
Once you have a final version of your speech written, it’s time to practice.
No Substitute for Practice
The confident speaker’s motto is “practice, practice, practice.” There is no substitute for practice. Practice takes time and effort, and in this time-poor world, we may be tempted to take shortcuts and not practice our speech. Resist the urge. Practice does lead toward perfection and generates the confidence to deliver successfully.
Break down your speech into segments. If there are five segments, start practicing with segment one, repeating the words until you have a good grasp. Then move onto segment two and so on. After completing segment five, go back and now combine segments one and two. Do the rounds until you are able to cover the entire speech, repeating it four to five times. You will be amazed at how your memory will support you at presentation time—all because you took the time to practice.
Practice with Others
Finally, practice in front of someone else. After you’ve practiced by yourself, perform in front of a friend or small group. The advantage is it will prepare you for showtime. Friends may also be able to tell you what they liked about your message and what can be improved.
But even with all that practice, at showtime, you may feel that you did not deliver what you conceptualized in your mind. Don’t worry. Good leaders know learning and self-improvement is lifelong. However, practice will always stack the odds in your favor.
Tomorrow, we learn why caring for your audience is of vital consideration.
Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear by Frank I. Luntz
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