Hello SOTGC community,
Strong public speaking skills are crucial to career success at any level, in any industry. Don’t believe me? Just ask Warren Buffet. The self-made billionaire credits much of his success to the skills he developed in a Dale Carnegie public speaking course he attended back in 1951.
“You learn all this complicated stuff as an MBA, but if you improve your communication skills, I will guarantee you that you’ll earn 50% more money over your lifetime.” – Warren Buffett
Now, before we go any further, let me clarify my definition of public speaking. I’m not talking about standing behind a podium as you pontificate to an audience-filled auditorium. Anytime you speak, with a specific purpose, to more than one person, you are public speaking.
Chances are, as a rising corporate star, you’re already a pretty damn good presenter. But, if you’re ready to kick those skills up a notch, try these four tips to become an even more dynamic public speaker.
- Get crystal clear on your goal. Ever hear the term drinking from a fire hose? Well, that’s exactly how listeners feel when we bombard them with too much information. It’s taken you a while to become a subject matter expert on your topic and you can’t transfer all that knowledge in a 20 minute presentation. Identify one or two key takeaways and then limit your talking points to content that directly supports those specific objectives.
- Remember it’s not about you. The focus of your presentation should be on them. What does your audience already know? What do they care about? What are their challenges and how will you help them overcome those challenges? Your audience members have a million competing priorities. Take the time to learn as much as you can about their needs if you want them to take time out of their busy day to listen.
- Become a master storyteller. When we hear a presenter use common words or look at bullet points on a slide deck, a very small portion of our brain (the language centers known as the Braca’s and Wernicke’s areas) is stimulated. Research (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/18/opinion/sunday/the-neuroscience-of-your-brain-on-fiction.html?adxnnl=1&pagewanted=all&adxnnlx=1354716276-vBCJNxgtIuIFGnU+PmkBpA&_r=0) shows, however, that when we hear a story with descriptive language and emotion our brains light up like a Christmas tree. If I tell my about the ripe and juicy peach I ate with breakfast, your brain reacts as if you are actually eating the peach. If you want to connect with your audience on a deeper, more emotional level, ditch the content-heavy PowerPoint slides and tell them a story.
- Learn from the masters. I have one word for you: TED. OK, I’m cheating a little here because TED actually stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design. TED talks feature some of the greatest thinkers – and speakers – of our time, all in 18 minutes or less. If you want to improve your presentation skills and master the art of persuasion through presentations, watch at least one TED talk a week. Three of my personal favorites are:
- Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action (http://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action.html)
- Brene’ Brown: The power of vulnerability http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability.html
- Steve Jobs: How to live before you die http://www.ted.com/talks/steve_jobs_how_to_live_before_you_die.html
I’d love to hear your ideas. What public speaking tips do you have for other SOTGC readers?