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8 Things Your Speech Must Contain

Posted on: July 29th, 2012

Presentations: 8 Things Your Speech Must Contain:

All you hard-core business types who believe that communication is a “soft skill” that only matters when everything else is fine, consider this from Vanity Fair magazine:

“During his first earnings call with analysts, (Google CEO Larry) Page read, with a discernible lack of enthusiasm, a 394-word statement, then took off before the traditional question-and-answer session.  The next day Wall Street lopped $15 billion off his company’s market value.  His second appearance, in July, beat expectations and wowed investors, driving the stock price up by 12 percent.”

I watched a bank CEO address 100 MBA faculty and students with a speech that had the thrill of an airport security line.  I wondered, “How does this drone motivate employees and investors?”  He’s gone.  The bank is too.

A university system president rallied public support with a presentation as exhilarating as my last urology exam.  She and her content were numbing.  She’s gone.

Finally, each week many of us watch smart, educated folks give civic club speeches that would cure insomnia.

My point is this.  In a time of unprecedented communication opportunities many of us still must learn from Larry Page’s lesson last summer.  Business acumen does not survive in a vacuum.  It must be leveraged through our ability to convey vision, goals, information, and passion: our ability to communicate.

Since precious few have David Letterman’s humor or High Point University President Nido Qubein’s phenomenal no-notes skill, let me remind you of some wonderful public speaking chestnuts:

  1. Build upon talking points.  They are the skeleton beneath successful analyst calls, speeches, important conversations, and interviews.  They provide rock-hard focus.
  2. Audience first, you second.  Connect with them so they can care about you.  Frame your information through their eyes.  Giving a speech about your non-profit?  Filter it through the audience’s interests and concerns.
  3. You are the message.  Six months after your presentation, they might not remember your comments or PowerPoint, but they sure as heck will remember you.  So be the best “you” you can be.  How?
  4. Make a point, tell a story.  This is especially important if you are shy. Sprinkle in experiences and anecdotes to illustrate the most important points.  Learn to ad-lib these stories so they can temporarily liberate you from the written page, unleash genuine emotions, energize the remaining words, and humanize you and your organization.
  5. Anticipate worst-case questions.  Draft good responses to potentially embarrassing inquiries.
  6. Internal first, external second.  Weighty information should go to stakeholders before anyone else.
  7. Start strong, end strong.  Everyone’s listening for the first couple of minutes so hit them between the eyes with a powerful opening statement, story, or anecdote.  Don’t blow precious seconds on an innocuous “well, it’s a pleasure to be here again” and “wow, how about this weather?”  Save your call for action or your second-best story for the conclusion and deliver it after taking questions from the audience.
  8. Prepare, prepare, prepare.  The best antidote for nerves.  Most professionals are nervous like you.  They just rehearse like demons until they know they’ve got it down cold.  No shortcuts here.

Go forth and communicate!

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