Ubong: For people who want to learn how to speak in public for the first time from politicians to business people who don’t know how to speak in public; what would be the first few things you would like such beginners to know?
Patricia: If you are a beginner, stop telling yourself you are not a good speaker. You are an inexperienced, untrained speaker. Two, do not postpone it because great communication and presentation skills is no longer a nice skill to have, it’s a matter of business or political life or death. Get started. Find an opportunity to practice speaking on a regular basis. Start in a safe, supportive environment – there organizations like Toastmasters. However, if you are a public figure or CEO perhaps you need a speech coach. You don’t have to have the best speech coach in the world – you do have to have someone who knows more than you do and is as interested in your success just as you are. Sometimes it is a mastermind or a mentor or a key supporter, sometimes it is a paid coach. Remember the four most important ingredients of any presentation.
- You need to start well. Start. Don’t waffle around. Come out and get their attention. Even if you are in a venue where you have to thank people or you have to introduce yourself. Do not make it the first phrase out of your mouth. Say something interesting so people actually care who you are. If you have to thank organizers, inviters, or people who have donated money, don’t do it first. Give them a reason –wow! I’m glad I supported him; I’m glad I invited her.
- Then have a simple structure. I don’t care how complex your message, you need a simple structure so you can remember it and so can your audience.
- People will not remember what you say; they will remember the pictures you create in the mind. Tell stories, give specific examples.
- You have to emotionally connect to your audience. You will emotionally connect to your audience through your stories but also speaking as an audience advocate. You need phrases that are more you-oriented that i-oriented. So never say “I am going to talk about”. You might say “Thank you for the opportunity to present my…political philosophy”. You might say “Have you ever had the experience of…” before you tell your story. You might say “I don’t know about you, but when I was growing up my dad always said..; have you ever had the thought? How often have you had this challenge? You know what it’s like when?” these are inclusive phrases. And everything you start a speech with “Imagine…” followed by 3 seconds of pause, the audience will open their mind and know that they are going to picture something but they feel included. The word “imagine” is a great you-focussed opening line. So: Start – Structure –Stories – Connect
Ubong: Now that we have started, people have concerns about nervousness and fears. What are your top 3 techniques for overcoming stage fright or what most people call the heebie-jeebies?
Patricia: Well it is not unusual even with experienced presenters to be nervous. You need to know is this a nervousness because you are intimidated by the audience in which case you get to know them, you wander around the room and I recommend you do that – anyone. Is it a nervousness because this is an important event then you spend plenty of time preparing, you cannot start too early for any presentation. Is it a nervousness because you do not know how to do it – in which case you learn. You learn early enough. You don’t call a speech coach two weeks out and say I have the most important speech and I’ve spent the last 45 years of my life running away from speaking. It’s a bit too late. Could we help you? Yes! But get started. If it is a psychological crippling fear then you need a psychiatrist, a speech coach can’t help you.