Preparation The Key To Influence

Some people are born to be public speakers, while most of us need a little coaching to realize our potential. Anxiety is common among public speakers, but it’s an emotion that can be harnessed, if not completely overcome with planning and practice.

The following steps can help you prepare for effective stakeholder communications. As a primer, write a list of the best public speakers that you have heard. What makes those people effective? Is it their title, their topic or their style? What else can you learn from these leaders to incorporate into your own style of delivery? Is it charm, energy, knowledge, passion? Do they talk slow or fast? Do they walk around or stand still? Do they use their hands to emphasize points? Use role models to help define your own style and watch recordings of your speeches and presentations to see what you want to modify in the future.

Know Your Audience: Public speaking opportunities usually take two forms: Those where we are invited and those where we propose a presentation. If you were invited in, it probably means that you are known, respected and in demand. That is a much different scenario than requesting an opportunity to make an appearance. If it is a small crowd, have people introduce themselves to you before you start talking.

Before you dive into your presentation, engage the audience. Ask them questions about who they are, what they think and what they know. Ask for a show of hands or have people stand up if they fit the profile of your question. This is a powerful icebreaker. It puts you in complete control. It gives you a chance to catch your breath and develop a rapport.

Know Your Goal: When preparing for a presentation or speech, clearly establish what you hope to accomplish? Do you want the audience to take a specific action or are you networking and positioning yourself as an expert. Are you making the speech to generate media coverage?

Know Your Subject: For maximum impact, tell your audience what you are going to tell them, tell them, and then tell them what you told them. This packaging and repetition makes it easier for your audience to digest, retain and act.

During your presentation, use visuals as necessary, but don’t offer handouts until after the meeting. Handouts are distracting during the presentation in most cases, but not all. Visuals are helpful for two reasons. They can offer high impact support for your presentation. They also give you a chance to catch your breath and gather your thoughts during the presentation.

Of course, you are a subject matter expert, or you would not have the opportunity to speak. Tailor your presentation to the knowledge and needs of each audience. Know your boundaries on time and detail.

Develop Your Style: In any presentation, you must make an impression right away. If you were introduced, don’t introduce yourself again. If you were not introduced, do so and thank the crowd for their time and attention. Some use humor. Some use shock. Some use charm. Whatever tactic you employ, make sure that it gains attention, while not creating a distraction. Refine and customize your introductory statement over time.

Before you dive into detail, tell the audience why you care about them and the topic at hand. People don’t want to know how much you know until they know how much you care.

When ready to begin your presentation, you should be warmed up and more relaxed. The most effective presenters are usually animated, which means that they speak with body language. Some walk around. Some use their hands to make points. Others employ their eyes and facial gestures. If any of these tactics fit your style, consider putting them to work for you. Most importantly, don’t do things that distract from you and your message.

Dress For Success: Once again, know your audience. What will they expect you to look like? It’s usually safe to overdress and be as professional as possible. Some audiences and venues dictate a different approach. Most importantly, don’t wear clothes or jewelry that will distract from you and your message. We are positioning you as the leader and the voice of reason. Clothes are part of the equation.

Know The Medium: One of the other key considerations is the platform. In-person presentations aren’t that different from online presentations via Zoom, but the nuances require planning and practice to master each. With Zoom meetings, don’t let the background behind you become a distraction. Keep animation to your hands and face. Make sure that people can hear you.

Once you finish your presentation, ask if there are any questions. Ask if others have experiences that they want to share. Be sure to leave your contact information. Encourage people to share their best practices with you.

Amplification: Before your speech, there are several tactics that you should consider to get additional impact. Is it appropriate to invite members of the media? If so, send out a press release that announces the time, place and subject matter.

After the event, be sure to send out another media release that summarizes the event for the media that couldn’t attend. Be sure to publicize the event before, during and after on social media.

Have your staff take some powerful photographs of you at the podium and meeting with stakeholders. Encourage people in the crowd to make posts to social media.

Be sure to take video of your presentation. You and your team can post it on social media and your website. It also serves as feedback for your continual improvement.

Media Training: This is a skill that can complement public speaking. In fact, the two often go hand in hand. Media training strives for a more concise delivery for sound bites. Public speaking is more about detail, relationships and education. Quite often speakers will have an opportunity to speak with members of the media before or after a speech, so media training skills and public speaking skills are often intertwined.

Public engagement can be a great opportunity to build awareness, understanding and support for your organization or cause. Make sure that your stakeholder communications plan includes these opportunities. If you don’t take advantage of them, your competition will.

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