This article is an introduction to the 3-part series on Smart Public Speaking and Presentation Skills
I remember my first speech.
It was in 3rd grade. I was 8 years old. And I was running for Class President.
I had spent the last week campaigning on the playground: I hung huge posters on every fence on campus, and handed out business cards to my classmates. I ran on a populist platform of procuring and distributing more soccer balls at recess.
But I had some stiff competition. I was running against two other popular kids in my class. My campaign platform and my handouts were definitely cooler than the competition, but I knew it was still going to be a close call.
I had to lock in victory. My last chance was our 5-minute speech right before voting.
I spent hours practicing. I came up with props. I thought about hand gestures. Hours later, I was ready.
I won the election. I served an illustrious term as 3rd grade president, which consisted of presiding over 2 pizza parties.
Fast forward to today. I love giving speeches as much as I loved my first speech in 3rd grade.
I realize most people have the exact opposite feeling about public speaking. From what I hear, it’s one of the most-feared undertakings for many.
And for that reason, public speaking is dismissed: dismissed as something that only upper-level managers, actors and politicians need to know how to do well.
What I think people don’t realize is just how important public speaking is for us as individuals, for our career, and ultimately for our happiness.
Mastering public speaking:
1. Gives you immense credibility in front of others.
3. Makes it easier for you to more concisely, confidently and persuasively convey information; both during a speech, in writing and in conversation.
I won’t say that “everyone” should master public speaking. It’s up to you to decide if you care enough to get better (which you will, with practice).
I want to take what I learned in 3rd grade–and in the countless speeches I have given since then–and help others understand how to get better. What I’ve found is that most advice on public speaking is not very good.
Most people I’ve met try to master public speaking like they would try to study for a math test.
Think back to math class. The key to success is memorization and understanding dense and technical equations. If you wanted an A on a calculus test, you have to remember exactly how a derivative works.
There’s a right answer, and there’s a wrong answer. There’s no room for interpretation. There’s only one way to do it.
When people try to learn how to speak, they take a “math test” approach. They try to learn tips; they scrutinize their every word or hand gesture; they worry about inserting the right number of jokes.
But public speaking is not a math test. Public speaking is, first and foremost, situational.
There’s no “right way” to give a speech. It’s entirely an abstract function of the environment, the content, your personality, and your comfort with the situation.
That’s what I want people to understand: giving a good speech is about being able to “feel” the situation. The best way to learn public speaking is with a mindset inspires action approach, as I have advocated throughout this entire blog!
Let’s get more specific. I approach teaching public speaking and presentation skills through 3 distinct areas, and I have an article on each one:
Part 1: The Public Speaking Mindset
Part 2: The Speech
Part 3: Handouts and Slides
NB- These 3 articles will be released over the course of the next week.
Part 1 focuses on the overall mentality needed to give a great speech or presentation (the mindset), and Parts 2 and 3 focus on the technical elements and execution (the action).
After you’re done reading the series, I would love your feedback: has my advice helped you? Are there some other issues I should have tackled, but didn’t? Is there anything I should expand on?
It’s my goal to convince you that public speaking is incredibly important, can make a positive difference in your life, and is actually a lot easier than you would initially expect.
Are your ready?
Photo Credit: By Robert Knudsen, White House [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons