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Essential Speaking Skills
All about the art of public speaking.

Learn by REFLECTING on your experiences

A month ago, I wrote an article on how you can be twice as good in 70 days by doing daily debriefs. How is it coming along? Notice any significant changes in your presentations? As you may recall, a person learn NOT by his experience but by REFLECTING on his experience. As such, for an individual to see improvements in his or her speaking ability, he or she needs to consistently evaluate their speeches and then plan how they can be better than their previous speech. This applies to professionals too.

I decided to post my daily debrief on last week’s talk The Purple Entrepreneur as a guide on how you can do your own evaluation too.

What happen?
Gave a 45 mins speech to a group of 40 students and lecturers at Singapore Polytechnic (similar to high school in States). From their response, I concluded that my speech was good but not that great. Could have been phenomenal!

I got extremely positive feedback from the people who spoke to me after the speech. They loved what I shared with them. My speech got them thinking. Some even commented that I was lively and funny which made the hour very entertaining for them. In fact, this speech opened up several doors of training opportunities for me in the coming month. Generally all these feedback were very encouraging but I was hoping for something even more impactful like “Gosh… your speech is a turning point in my life!” or “Now I know that I can be successful too.. thank you!”

What work?

  1. The variety of activities that I have included in my speech i.e. questioning, audience involvement, games, demonstrations. Even though most of the people came in looking exhausted, all - except for one - were kept awake and fully engaged.
  2. Rapport was built very quickly with the audience. Interaction with them before the speech worked extremely well. Getting them to know four people before my speech was effective too. Not only did it reduce the aloofness among the audience, it also raised the energy of the room significantly. Somehow when I begin, it doesn’t feel like I was talking to them for the first time.
  3. They love the humor which makes it very easy for me to connect with them. I see many smiling faces and audience arching forward to listen. That kept me going even though it was already late in the afternoon.
  4. Stories, especially personal anecdotes worked very well with the audience. Not only did it added color to my presentation, it underscored the message that I wanted to put across to them.

What did not work?

  1. We started late. People were only trickling in at 4pm (where the talk was supposed to begin). As such, the entire speech ended late. There was no time for me to answer specific questions which could have mean a lot to them.
  2. Impact was also greatly reduced because of a minute long acknowledgements to the audience at the start. Instead of giving more content at a short amount of time, more time could have been spent coaching the individuals on how they can become successful entrepreneurs.
  3. A slight hiccup: The handout was only printed on one page. The second page was missing as such I could not give out the handout at the end of the presentation.

What did you learn?

What if we start late?
Firstly, there is every possibility that the talk will start late. So be ready to cut short your presentation so that you still end on time! In my case, keeping to an hour long presentation may not be the best thing to do as it will eat into the networking/dinner session. It would also be wise to pioritize the content of your speech so that you know what to leave out when time is short.

To thank or not to thank?
Thanking the audience or showing gratitude at the start of the presentation may not be the best thing to do. This I learnt only after consulting the champion speakers and some public speaking books. Allow me to share my findings.

In the case of this talk, I felt that it was important for me to acknowledge the audience, especially the staff and lecturers as I was afraid that they - being more experienced than me in the entrepreneurial field - may not accept me or my speech. As such, I made it clear that my talk was more of a sharing and I was very honored to have them here. Although it did create a listening, I realized that it may not be necessary.

One of the greatest speakers in the century, Winston Churchill, once said that praise in the beginning of a talk sounds like flattery, whereas the same praise wedged in the middle of the speech comes off as sincerity. Ah-ha!

Also, I discovered that there are two ways that I could have added impact without discounting my credibility. One is by increasing my stage presence (we will talk more about it in a later post) and by incorporating an impactful introduction (one without all the pleasantries).

Murphy at work again?
Should have checked before my presentation. But well… it is Murphy! I manage to salvage the situation by collecting the audience’s email addresses and sending them the soft copy within the next 24 hrs.

What can you work on improving?

Through this talk, I have learnt the importance of presence and a powerful introduction. The truth is we do not have a second chance to create a strong first impression. So we have to do it right the first time. I am still in the midst of researching this aspect. Once I am done with it, I will share my findings with all of you.

I also need to learn how to manage my time more effectively. If you are given a 45 mins time slot, prepare a 40 mins presentation so that you have 5 mins buffer to handle unforseen situations like people coming in late or deepening a particular portion of your presentation that your audience may be interested in.

Wow! Cool stuff isn’t it? So, remember this… you learn not by your experiences but by REFLECTING on your experiences!

“Learn by REFLECTING on your experiences”