I Got Some ‘Splainin’ To Do
I walked up to the microphone like I was walking onto a yacht.
My palms were dry, my gaze was fixed on the audience, and my smile true and projecting an “I’m happy to be here,” attitude. I delivered a killer opening line designed to warm the cool November air.
Blank stares. Huh?
It was like I needed subtitles.
There are dozens of points we can discuss about the art of public speaking. I can tell you that everyone is an expert in something and we all should look for opportunities to offer our experience to an audience. It must become an integral part of our self-branding strategy.
But it isn’t the content of the talk that interests me, rather an element of public speaking that I find even more important—the delivery. You might protest that fluff and style couldn’t possibly exceed in importance to substance. So let me tell you that even the most vital topic would put you to sleep unless it was communicated with clarity and conviction, peppered with humor and compelling stories.
Make your audience laugh and they’ll remember you. Your unique style and ability to entertain will resonate with the listeners. They won’t be checking their watches or chomping at the bit to make a beeline for the bar. We must get to know our audience and tailor our style to them. We do not want to go over their heads or below their belt. Let’s share our passion and enthusiasm—it’s inclusive and fetching. Then the knowledge you’re about to impart will not be wasted.
Most of us weren’t born with the gift of the gab and public speaking may not come naturally. Toastmasters would be a good place to start honing our skills. That and the bathroom mirror. Demosthenes, the greatest Greek orator of his time, stuttered in his youth and improved his speech by placing pebbles in his mouth. We must use our shortcomings to our advantage. A foreign accent or a speech impediment should force us to slow down and annunciate our words more clearly, making us distinctive and memorable. Gestures, expressions and clearly communicated ideas will happily remove the need for a Power Point presentation, a video (don’t you ever!) or, God forbid, subtitles.