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In her book, “The Fast Track Guide to Speaking in Public,” Jan Yager, Ph.D., businesswoman and expert speaker, argues that public speaking is one of the five key skills that can help an executive make or break their company. Yet, it is not unusual for people to report fearing public speaking more than death itself.
Executives with strong speaking skills have many opportunities to turn your brand into a thought leader. Panels, recorded interviews, keynote speeches, user group meetings, and others present opportunities to get your message out. They are also potentially embarrassing if the executive in question is unprepared or not comfortable with this aspect of their role. Here are five things you can do to help your spokespeople become better equipped for prime time.
Get Professional Help
Public Speaking is part art and science and there are people who know the tricks of the trade and can teach others to wow an audience. A public speaking coach can work with your representatives to hone in on the style and tone that will work best for them. If a private coach isn’t a possibility, consider a class like those offered by Dale Carnegie.
Create a Storyboard
When crafting the content, don’t write a speech. Instead, create a storyboard that highlights key themes, takeaways and stories. This works much better than expecting the speaker to remember the content word for word. That approach comes across as stiff and impersonal. It is much easier to engage the audience with a story.
Come Up with a Compelling, Simple Theme
One of the best executive public speakers of all time was Steve Jobs. In fact, some believe that he helped Apple more with his public speaking skills than all of his others combined. What he did exceedingly well was distill his message into just a few words of plain English. For example, when he introduced the iPod, he didn’t say, “I’d like to introduce a new, portable music device that’s lightweight, has a ton of storage capacity, great battery life, and very quick transfer speeds.”
He said, “iPod. One thousand songs in your pocket.”
When developing content, ask yourself, “What would Steve Jobs do?”
Use Compelling Visuals
If there will be a presentation, use visuals, rather than words whenever possible. People can take in visual information 65,000 times more quickly than text, and no one wants to watch someone reading off slides. If you want to have an interesting presentation, bullet points are right out. (Steve Jobs, for the record, never used a single one.)
Practice, Practice, Practice
Encouraging rehearsal is probably the single most important thing you can do to help your executive become a better speaker. There are no shortcuts to delivering an informative, engaging, and enjoyable presentation. Work with your executive to make sure they have the material and the flow down cold. Encourage them to test the message with small groups who can provide feedback and let you know what kind of audience reactions you can expect.
There’s no doubt about it; outstanding public presentations are hard work. But there are big advantages if the face of your brand is someone who is invited to take the stage. You can help with both the content and the performance by following these recommendations.