When I first started doing public speaking many years ago, I was terrified. I did a terrible job at it. I remember being so frustrated with the whole process. I remember like yesterday, how my sweet wife would try to encourage me through the process. I wanted to quit but somehow persevered. In retrospect, the only reason I persevered was that the cause I was speaking about was very important to me. I was the founder and CEO of an empowerment and leadership development organization that took orphans and underprivileged children from deplorable conditions and helped provide basic needs, education, and personal leadership development to help them succeed in life. Fast forward several years now, when I speak, I hear comments from colleagues like, “You are just a natural”, “In my almost 15 years as a program director, this is the best presentation I’ve heard from a resident physician”, etc.
The truth is, there is no such thing as overnight success. It takes time and effort. I encourage people to find a message to them is too important to for them to keep silent about. A message that burns within their bones. That will help them through the process of failing forward that happens before you become comfortable as a public speaker.
Using the 5Ws and 1 H to PLAN your speech
When I was in grade school, my principal often repeated, “Proper Preparation Prevents Poor Performance.” It’s true with public speaking as with everything in life. I’ve found that going through the following six steps will give anyone solid preparation to deliver excellent presentations or speeches.
1. WHY (Purpose)
– Start with why. Know the purpose of your speech. What is the purpose of your speech?
2. WHO – Audience (the people)
Know your audience. Get to know the audience as much as possible. Next, create a good audience persona. An audience persona is an individual representation of your audience. This will help you to target your speech to this one composite individual rather than trying to talk to many different people. This individual will be a composite individual with traits that much of the audience has, as such, you will touch many things that everybody can relate to.
3. WHAT- The Subject Matter (topic/thesis)
Know the topic/thesis of your speech. What is the message you want to convey? Identify the single most important idea, thesis or argument that you want to make to your audience. Your goal is to convey this message and evoke an emotion, elicit a response. The occasion will inform the message. Identify about 5 potential different thesis statements (messages) and then choose the dominant one.
Your thesis is your best, the idea that you will write your entire speech around. Your thesis is your main idea, summed up in a concise sentence that lets the reader know where you’re going, and why. It’s practically impossible to write a good speech without a clear thesis.
Generate ideas to create the content. Brainstorm and start gathering ideas. Use an idea book to jot down ideas about the topic. Use sticky notes. What I do when I have to make a speech is start a page on my cell phone, blog, or cloud word processors like Google Drive or Onedrive. Just doing that gets me started and I start jotting ideas in there as they come. Mind map to access your diffuse brain and generate content. Later you can storyboard or outline to organize your content. Storyboarding or outlining allows the material to flow and help you remember important details of the presentation.
A crucial part of the content creation is gathering stories that will be used in your story. We learn through stories and remember stories than dry facts. Simply saying, “Let me tell you a story…” gets every body’s attention. But what exactly is a story? And, how do you find stories? You look for story triggers. The most basic story trigger is this: “something happens to someone.” Then you ask who, what, when, where, why? and how questions to flush out the story.
Content is King. You need to know your content and anticipate questions.Confidence comes from a lot of places. At the top of them is knowing your content cold and having some experience under your belt, practicing, and anticipating questions and coming up with answers. Don’t put anything on your slide that will draw questions. If you have any concept in your slides, know what every word means and understand every. Don’t beg for questions that will embarrass you.
Know other speakers at the event so that you don’t duplicate material. Also so that there is a nice flow b/n the theses.
4. WHEN – The time, day, and occasion.
Some of the very first things that we need to know before speaking in public are the time, day, and occasion. Don’t take this for granted. For example, the occasion could be when students are graduating, celebrating a birthday, Christmas, during Easter, etc.
5. WHERE – Venue (Know the Venue)
I use a room checklist before every presentation. That helps me not forget things that are important.
6. HOW – How long (length) and How to present?
The length, method/style of presentation, and method of organizing the content are important parts of creating an effective presentation.
7. Rehearse, Rehearse, and Rehearse
After you’ve prepared and written your speech or presentation, it’s time to rehearse. Here are a few simple tips that will help you get a great rehearsal.
-Rehearse in real time. Time yourself and use the same amount of time you will be given during the real talk.
-Rehearse in an environment that is as close to the real one as possible. If you have access to the room and stage and can go and rehearse there, do it. Keep it as real as possible. Find out if you will be standing or sitting, talking from a high stage or in front of a small group of people and practice in those circumstances.
-Dress in the same or similar clothes as you practice. It’s called a dress rehearsal for a reason! Don’t rehearse in your house clothes, wear the similar clothes to those you will be wearing.
-Present to an audience if possible. If you don’t have an audience, hang pictures of friends and family members on the wall and speak to them.
-Rehearse at the same time of day you will be presenting. Our energy level varies with time of day and you want to practice in a similar state of energy.
-Record an audio of yourself and listen to it. It will help you fine-tune your message.
-Record a video of yourself rehearsing and watch. You don’t need any fancy equipment. Your phone or cheap camcorder will do. You want to see your gestures.
If you have a message that is burning in your heart but fear of public speaking is stopping you, let me tell you that I’ve been there. I can help. Don’t hesitate to ask me questions as you prepare to speak. I will be glad to point you towards more resources for preparation.