Sunday, March 2, 2008

JWN: Public Speaking: Fun Facts, Myths, & JWN Tips

Public Speaking: Fun Facts, Myths, & JWN Tips

By: Joseph W. Norman

EDITOR'S NOTE: Fresh video below. Check it out, comment, & share! New version of this info & more on Thanks for your readership!

Previously I’ve discussed such topics as working a room with small talk, making a powerful impression, and commanding a presence, but what about that big presentation you have coming up? How do you make that speech you got asked to give memorable?

For many years I’ve been a student of leadership. A natural offshoot of that is public speaking. When you think about leaders, you often think about those meetings they’ve run or speeches they’ve delivered.

First, I’ll start with a few resources that have been crucial to my development as a public speaker; Jeffrey Gitomer’s Little Green Book of Getting Your Way, Alan M. Perlman’s Perfect Phrases for Executive Presentations, and Granville Toogood’s The Articulate Executive.

The “Perfect Phrase” books come in a variety of different topics from interviewing to negotiating salary. Great resource! Now, let’s get to some fun facts and debunk some myths about public speaking.

Here's a link to the video so you can share it:

Public speaking is feared worse than death. This one might make you laugh, but it is actually true. People fear addressing audiences over knocking on the pearly gates.

You have to stay behind the podium when you speak. MYTH. Get out of there and move around the audience. Remove any barriers (physical and mental) between you, your message, and the audience. You will be exponentially more effective.

“I feel awkward speaking in front of people.” It is only awkward if you make it awkward, I like to say. Your attitude sets the tone for your speech. Come in ready to perform. Deep down don’t we all want to be the center of attention? Even just for a little while? This is your chance!

You should write your speech word for word. MYTH. Know your subject, not your speech. Avoid word for word renditions because you’ll only end up reading to the audience instead of engaging them.

“The audience will know when I screw up.” MYTH. The audience wants you to succeed and they don’t know your speech. If you miss a part, just keep it flowing. Odds are the audience won’t have a clue.

Now that we’ve shed some public speaking inhibitions, let’s talk about how you really make it happen for you and your audience. These are concepts I’ve picked up on from lots of reading and practice.

I delivered my first Key Note address in October 2007 at the Future Business Leaders of America District VIII Conference. My speech taught high school students how they could make it happen for themselves. Also, throughout the day I led four workshops on leadership. The 30 minute speech and workshops were no doubt an ominous task. These are tips I learned in the process of preparing and delivering that speech (and others since then).


Arrive early and introduce yourself to everybody you can. Knowing people in the audience will make you more comfortable. I like to slip a name or two from the audience into my speeches. This connects them personally with the message.

Use handouts. Especially for longer speeches, have a handout with bullet points of your message. It gives the audience something physical to take away. NOTE: Always hand out at the end. Otherwise, they’ll be distracted and less engaged.

Structure a surprise or comedic slide into your speech. I LOVE giving gifts to people in the audience; whether it is a VIP sticker or something bigger. During my key note address in October ’07 I gave away three signed books. If you were given a book at a speech, you’d remember that wouldn’t you?

Finish with a crucial point or empowering statement. My speeches tend to hit home with one liners or candid quotes such as; “You hold the power,” or “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. That is to have succeeded.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Transition with positive energy. Initiate applause for the organizers of the event or next speaker in line. This has the audience moving on with an up beat feel about what you just said.

A FINAL NOTE: Know your subject, be yourself, and have fun. If you nail those things, you have done your job. Remember, “Proper preparation leads to powerful performance.” - JWN

For more help with your public speaking skills, pick up some of the resources mentioned above or take on a leadership role in a local organization; Toastmasters, Rotary Club, etc. Practice, practice, practice.

Here is some final inspiration for you from Winston Churchill; “Before you can inspire with emotion, you must be swamped with it yourself. Before you can move their tears, your own must flow. To convince them, you must first believe.”

That quote hangs right above my desk and I make a point to read it nearly everyday.

To your success, ~JWN

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