This Monday I delivered a technical speech to secure help to implement a data project for the organisation I lead. Technically, the speech was good, my objective was clear and so was the central idea at its core. However, a couple of things didn’t go as planned and I ended up learning valuable lessons from this experience. This speech highlights the core importance of practising in different situations to become a great speaker.
Practice is not what you think
First, I want to clear a misconception. What I mean by practice here is not delivering a speech in front of a mirror and rehearsing your content and delivery. What I define as practise here is speaking in front of a live audience in a formal setting. In other words, for me practising public speaking is doing the real thing in real-life conditions. Why do I make this distinction? It is because we learn most when things go wrong and things can go wrong in real-life conditions. When you rehearse a speech at home, you’re in control of everything. You can set the stage as you wish, you’re using your own IT equipment and you can always stop and look at your notes if you wish.
If you want to practice public speaking. Join a local Toastmasters club. Seek out all the speaking. Find out if you can speak through your professional organisation or at work. In short, seek out as many speaking opportunities as you can find.
We learn more when things go wrong
Things went wrong as I delivered my speech on Monday evening. I ended up tangling myself up between my slides and the various spreadsheets I wanted to demonstrate. This didn’t happen during my practice run at home, but it did later that evening during the real thing. I received some great feedback on my speech and I’ll take it on-board the next time I do a similar presentation. This is not the first time that I learn more from mishaps or failures. A public speaking competition in 2017 taught me the importance of purpose when speaking the hard way. A few months ago, a personal speech delivered in Toastmasters reminded me of the importance of pre-speech ‘conditioning’ to gear oneself up emotionally.
If you want to become a great speaker, be prepared to fail. You’ll feel miserable initially, but your failures will teach you lessons that you’ll never forget.
Practice in unfamiliar territories and experiment
When in comes to public speaking, no two audiences are the same. This is why I urge any speaker to practice their speaking in front of different audiences. If you’ve joined Toastmasters, speak in other clubs often to sharpen your speaking knife. Try delivering the same speech to multiple audiences and observe the reactions. You’ll not be able to please everybody but you’ll learn valuable audience engagement lessons along the way. Nowadays I am often asked to “say a few words” with little or no notice. It’s always interesting to see what works and what doesn’t work with my audiences. When I started my public speaking journey, I decided to become better with humour. It took me years to get there and many experimentations along the way, including speaking in a fake Scottish accent and drinking a bottle of Worcester Sauce on stage.
Do you want to speak with impact? Do you want to know the secrets behind making a great first impression when you speak? Come to my one-day workshop on Saturday 15th February and learn to become an impactful speaker and presenter.