Be An Interesting Speaker, Part 1

Managers and CEOs have to make speeches. It's just a fact of business life. As someone in a position of leadership, you have to get up and talk to your constituents or your employees about policy changes, new business development plans, the state of the break room after lunch time, or whatever. For many, it's old hat; for some, it induces terror of the worst sort. There are many factors to consider when approaching a speaking event, so we'll cover those first.

A few tips to making it through your speaking duties:

1. Consider your body language. Speakers who slump or walk with a wilted appearance won't garner much respect or credibility. Posture is poise. If you stand up straight while you speak, it goes a long way. But you don't have to stand stock still the entire time, you can use planned, natural movements (use of hands and arm gestures, walk in short paces within your speaking space, etc.) that emphasize the points you are trying to make. If you're speaking in a more personal manner, you'll want to lessen the distance between yourself and your audience.

2. Think about your vocal qualities. How your voice sounds is another consideration. If you get really nervous, watch your breathing and slow it as much as possible. Try not to fear silence. If you're in between points and saying nothing, that's better than stuttering um, um, um as you find your bearings. Slow your speech to a meaningful pace (one that isn't so boring as to put people to sleep, but that isn't as fast as you can talk) and take care to enunciate the words you say. Hurrying and not speaking with clarity can seem like you're mumbling instead of speaking.

3. Find out about your speaking environment conditions. What kind of space are you speaking in and to? How will your listeners be seated—around a table, in rows of chairs, around smaller multiple tables? Consider how far away you should be and how close you should be. Communications specialist Mary Munter says that the more objects you place between yourself and the audience, the more formal the interaction. Think about what you should wear? Is it a casual event or should you wear business attire?

In an upcoming post, we'll cover how to practice your speech, relaxation techniques, and last minute jitter techniques.

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