Polish Up Your Public Speaking Skills in Advance!
By Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
It's no secret—the higher up the corporate ladder you go, the more important your public speaking skills become.
If you have your sights set on increased responsibility and the job title and salary that go with them, you will need to position yourself ahead of the crowd—in advance. At all stages of your career you need to sell yourself, your ideas, your value, and your ability. To position yourself for promotion, learn what it takes to sell yourself and your ideas to senior management.
Perhaps you're already speaking up in team meetings and getting your ideas across effectively. If so, how do you feel about facing a room full of senior management or at least 5 around a board room table, all staring at you? What is different? Well, for one thing the stakes are higher. All business communications are important, but with senior management as your audience, you are in the hot seat. Who wouldn't be nervous?
Don't worry. You are human. This is a perfectly natural way to feel. Remember, they can't see how you feel, only how you look and act. You want them to focus on and consider your proposals, not your anxiety. And you'll look cool and collected when you follow these Frippicisms for dealing with senior management.
Seven Fripp Do's
1. Practice. A report to senior managers is not a conversation; however, it must sound conversational. Once you have your notes, practice by speaking out loud to an associate, or when you are driving to work, or on the treadmill. Make sure you are familiar with what you intend to say. It is not about being perfect. It is about being personable. (Remember, rehearsal is the work; performance is the relaxation.)
2. Open with your conclusions. Don't make your senior level audience wait to find out why you are there.
3. Describe the benefits if your recommendation is adopted. Make these benefits seem vivid and obtainable.
4. Describe the costs, but frame them in a positive manner. If possible, show how not following your recommendation will cost even more...
5. List your specific recommendations, and keep it on target. Wandering generalities will lose their interest. You must focus on the bottom line. Report on the deals, not the details.
6. Look everyone in the eye when you talk. You will be more persuasive and believable. (You can't do this if you are reading!)
7. Be brief. The fewer words you can use to get your message across, the better. Jerry Seinfeld says, "I spend an hour taking an eight-word sentence and making it five." That's because he knows it would be funnier. In your case, shorter is more memorable and repeatable.
Three Fripp Don'ts
1. Don't try to memorize the whole presentation. Memorize your opening, key points, and conclusion. Practice enough so you can "forget it." This helps retain your spontaneity.
2. Never, never read your lines—not from a script and not from PowerPoint® slides. Your audience will go to sleep.
3. Don't wave or hop. Don't let nervousness (or enthusiasm) make you too animated—but don't freeze. Don't distract from your own message with unnecessary movement.
Where to Start
1. What is the topic or subject you are reporting on? Be clear with yourself so you can be clear with your audience.
2. Why is your topic important enough to be on the busy agenda of senior level managers?
3. What questions will your audience be asking? Can you answer them early in your presentation?
Patricia Fripp, CSP, CPAE
Sales Presentation Trainer, Keynote Speaker, Executive Speech Coach - Patricia coaches clients on the three essential aspects of presentation: simplifying organization, mastering content, and perfecting delivery.
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Fripp always offers powerful advice on business presentations. I have learned much from her over the years and always enjoy watching her speak.
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