Public Speaking: What you should know before you open your mouth (Part1)

I am preparing a seminar where I will address an audience of professionals, predominantly male members of the medical fraternity. The room screams dark suits (single breasted), cuff links, polished leather pumps and old school ties.

I check that my Powerpoint slides are in the correct sequence, with text of a size that can be easily read by people seated at the back of the auditorium.

As I go through a mental rehearsal of my presentation, I think of the occasions when I was an audience member and how I formed my impression of the speaker the moment he/she opened their mouth.

The first 10 seconds are crucial-I will either pay attention or mentally switch off based on their opening stanza (don’t you love the opera/theatre analogy).

It is a given that the speaker is dressed appropriately for the occasion. I don’t know about you but I find that women (or men) who wear a lot of jewellery especially metal bracelets that jangle with the slightest movement to be a distraction.

Folks, you want to sell the message here, not have their concentration broken each time you wave your hand.

Similarly with ear rings-leave the big gold hoops to the gypsies at carnivals.

Your speech pattern: Listening to a presentation that is unpracticed and stilted is similar to reading a document that has punctuations at inappropriate points.

It does not make sense and it irritates the person listening to you.

There are 6 fundamental don’ts that will help you present in a professional manner, 3 of which are covered in Part1.

1. Filler words:

Starting a sentence with non-words such as “err,” “um,” “ah,” “you know,” or “like” indicates to the listener that you are nervous and unprepared. It is a pity if you really know your subject matter but come across as lacking in confidence in your material.

To avoid this, pause, breath and smile. Then pick one person in the front row and speak to them as if they were the only person in the room.

When you regain your composure, look around and address another person and so on.

The “pause and breath” method is also a good strategy when you lose your trend of thought.

2. Rising inflection:

A rising inflection at the end of every sentence makes you sound like you are asking a question rather than stating a fact. (When I hear this, I am almost compelled to give you an answer!).

It is important that you come across as the authority on that subject, and not tentative nor timid especially if you are making an important pitch for business.

By bringing your intonation down at the end of a sentence you appear more in control and certainly more convincing.

3. Grammatical errors:

In a casual or social setting, informality may be the norm. However, the usage of incorrect grammar during a presentation will cause the audience to question your educational background.

Using phrases such as “youse” for “you” or “ain’t” for “isn’t” and “he don’t,” for “he doesn’t” are not appropriate.

Do yourself a favour and speak in complete sentences. Even better, make sure that the tenses agree.

Next post I will cover the other 3 don’ts and tips on “selling the sizzle” of your message.

Yours in health, wealth and happiness

(Adapted from Excelle.Monster.Com)

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