Research shows that people fear speaking in public more than dying.
What is there to fear? Fear of looking stupid. Fear of forgetting what you were going to say. I am well used to the former. And am battling with the fear of forgetting my words.
Based on a study done in 1967 by Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a Professor of Psychology at UCLA, I discovered that in any presentation the words you use represent only 7% of the effect you will have on the audience.
And that helped enormously. Of far more importance is the way you present yourself physically, your body language, (and this is why it’s always better to make sales calls standing up) and your tonality.
Seven natural laws
The first step in building any speech is deciding what you want people to do as a result of hearing from you. To quote Covey’s “Seven Habits of Successful People” – Begin with the end in mind.
2. Power of three
The second step is to realize that people will probably only remember three and at most seven things you say. Say things in threes – of which last be the most memorable.
3. Power of three again
Aristotle’s simple structure is
• Tell them what you are going to tell them
• Tell them
• Tell them what you told them.
In other words: introduction, detail, conclusion.
4. Know your audience
Know your audience before you prepare. Here in Dubai there will be a plethora of first languages. If you are presenting in English then, you need to recognize that it is most likely they will be listening to you in their second or third language. So you will have to simplify your language. Speak in short sentences and use short words. Sometimes you can test for comprehension.
Know your audience’s English preferences. Do they want British English or American English? This will affect the choice of words you use. - Is the engine in the car under the Hood or under the Bonnet. And if they are not used to your accent then further challenges ensue – do they prefer Indian English or Egyptian English?
5. Use NLP
Experienced speakers such as US presidents will know about NLP to first engage the kinaesthetics, then the auditory, then the visual – generally all done by voice tone and matching words.
Of course, presentations are definitely improved by
• appropriate hand movements
• physical movement by the presenter
• great body language
• raising and lowering the tone of voice to emphasize points
6. Death by Powerpoint
If you must use Powerpoint, people will focus on reading what is on the screen and not on you. People will, in particular, not focus on you if all you do is read the slides. And give the time to read the slides – which means the more detailed the slide the more time you have to give them to read it. A sales pitch should only contain 10 slides maximum.
7. Practice but don’t learn.
Practice your speech. Time how long it takes. Remember to add time for people to react, read slides etc. And don’t learn the speech – just learn the keywords.
Personally I like to practice in groups delivering off the cuff speeches and giving feedback. Learning to give feedback to others is a great way of giving feedback to yourself and increasing your awareness.
As Maya Angelou says: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but they will never forget how you made them feel.” So learn how to deliver and engage the audience with Passion and Commitment. And last word to the late comedian Frank Carson whose catchphrase was ‘It’s the way I tell ‘em’ – with an Irish accent of course.