How can you improve your speaking style?
I’ve given loads of presentations over the years and a good chunk of them have been pretty average. With time they got better although I wouldn’t dare to pretend I was any good. Every presentation is different, every presentation makes me nervous and yes, you really do learn from each one.
To improve, you have to do them. There is no short-cut. You can watch TED videos all day long for a year but in order to ‘get good’ then you’ve got to ‘get up’ and ‘do it’.
Giving a presentation is like doing stand-up. You are by yourself and there are real people in front of you full of their own narratives, beliefs, back stories, prejudices, hopes, ambitions and expectations. This should tell you straight away that you can’t be brilliant to everyone. Some will like you, some won’t. Some will be behind you every inch of the way, some will be critical every inch of the way and some are just waiting for coffee.
Forget the idea that people aren’t interested in you, “it’s the message that’s important” – rubbish – you are the message.
Well, the content should be king but it’s actually all about you and what you do. This has been described by some as The Bananarama Principle and their line “It Ain’t What You Do (It’s The Way That You Do It)” which we can adapt to “It Ain’t What You Say (It’s The Way That You Say It)” – that’s what gets results.
It’s hard to pass on advice about ‘how to present’ because everyone has their own style and we really shouldn’t try to copy someone else.
There are things I have tried and failed at trying to be someone else but in the end I’ve always come back to being me. That’s not to say we can’t learn from each other because there will be some tips that translate well.
I particularly like what Jo Owen has to say in How To Lead and I have to say his tips for effective speaking make a lot of sense. He identifies 3 Es and then another 2 Es for us to mull over before hitting the stage. He says,
…if you can remember the three Es of communication, even a dull message is likely to come across well: Energy, Enthusiasm, Excitement.
We can’t really argue with these. The three Es all relate to communicating with passion and putting some power into what you are saying. Countless times I have seen CPD providers that have been as dull as dishwater because they’d forgotten to inject some oomph. The message then becomes lethargic and boring.
Jo also goes onto to say that another 2Es are important: Expertise and Enjoyment.
It really does help if you have some mastery and you can speak with authority as it allows you to relax and let the 5th E kick-in: enjoyment. These two Es often go together because if you know what you are talking about then you feel in control and the number one fear of presenting is having no control!
When you can speak with confidence, with passion and enjoy what you are doing then your audience are going to benefit and start reflecting this back to you.
One more thing….actually, ten more.
It’s well worth listening to Gavin Oattes. He’s a professional public speaker and so knows a thing ot two when it comes to this sort of thing. I think his tips are well worth embracing:
- Be nervous
- Be real
- Be weird
- Be flawed
- Be different
- Be gallus
- Be magical
- Be silly
- Be brave
- Be you
Gallus might stump some of us but Gavin tells us that this is a Scottish word meaning bold, cheeky and brilliant.
Perhaps at the end of the day having a gallus streak is all we need. There’s nothing wrong with being daring and flashy if it can spark some flashes of inspiration in others.
You never know, you might just get a standing ovation when you sit down.