Public Speaking

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I worked at an oil and gas company a couple of years ago. Gazprom, held an event where the chief security officers and some other technical staff from more than 50 branches were gathered, and it was at our head office’s conference hall. I was chosen by the management team to prepare a 20 minute presentation on the internal audit results of 2011.

I wrote some notes, thought about the structure, and decided on what I really wanted to get from the audience in terms of compliance with corporate policies and procedures related to information security by inviting them to a “call to action” at the end of my speech.

Everything went very well and I was glad to help everybody clarify some aspects on information security, and share some ways of solving typical issues. Although my presentation was a little harsh (it’s sometimes the only way to get something done), I was applauded and congratulated, and asked a barrage of questions. I had engaged the audience very well and made my message come across.

Here are some general tips on public speaking:

  1. Firstly, take a moment to ask yourself several important questions:
  • Why am I doing this?
  • Why is it so important to me?
  • What do I want?
  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I want from the audience?
  • What is my goal?
  1. Mentally exercise your speech. Vividly imagine yourself making the greatest presentation of your life. Think of your previous positive experience in public speaking.
  2. When on stage, act and speak as if you own the place. You are big, brave and strong.
  3. Remember that the only emotion you actually feel on stage is excitement. It is in your power to transform it into a positive aggressive attitude instead of fear.
  4. Remember that only you gain from this presentation. Forget about result – just practice.
  5. Don’t try to be perfect.
  6. Don’t be so serious about it – you’ve done it a thousand times. Imagine that you are just going to tell a funny story to your friends or relatives.
  7. Act as if you already successfully delivered this presentation. Just let the success happen.
  8. Think of yourself as a kind of person who is a master at public speaking and enjoys it a lot.
  9. You have to actually believe in what you are saying. Integrity is crucial.
  10. Remember that the audience is your best friend. They want you to succeed because they want to hear an interesting presentation.
  11. Appreciate your audience and remember – you have something important to tell them, you have value. Your great presentation has the potential to change the world and make them better people.
  12. Move the attention from yourself to the audience. Focus on them.
  13. Be aware of your body language: posture, chin, and shoulders.
  14. Take time to rehearse. Practice makes perfect.
  15. Remember that the presentation actually begins when you stand up and walk to stage. Not when you are already on stage.
  16. Slow deep breathing can help you relax. Some physical exercises right before speech also work well. Help the audience to feel comfortable and relaxed by relaxing yourself.
  17. Voice: use intonation and take regular pauses.
  18. Speak loud and clear.
  19. Eye-contact is very important: scan the audience, focus on individuals
  20. Move, but avoid patterns
  21. Use gentle gestures
  22. Smile, show enthusiasm
  23. Channel your emotions
  24. The delivery of your presentation is important. Try to stick to the following structure:
  • State the purpose: “Today I’m here for…”
  • Executive summary: Say what you want to say and then say it
  • Describe situation (context)
  • State the problem
  • Give a solution
  • Call to action
  1. Show something to involve people. Especially in the beginning.  Personally, I usually show some printed copies of policies or guidelines just for drawing attention.
  2. Interact with the audience. Ask rhetorical questions
  3. Tell them a story. Everybody loves stories. Of course you have to stay formal but try to make the  audience see juicy pictures in their imagination. Airport stories are magical.
  4. When asked a question, always thank the person. Questions are about your topic – not about you personally. They simply indicate that your subject is very interesting. Take a good pause before answering – show them the question is important and you’re thinking – avoid interrupting
  5. After the presentation take a moment and write down what you think you did well and what should be improved.

Image courtesy of Chaiwat / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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