Speaker Preparation – the Key to Success

Why do so many business presentations end in failure?

Well, it’s not surprising when you see just how little people prepare for their big day. To be fair, people often make a big effort with their content. They have to, because otherwise they would not have been invited to speak.

Knowing your material inside out is vital for your confidence when the spotlight is shining down on you, but as so many subject matter experts do not realise, there are many other factors that come into the equation of successful speeches and presentations.

A common issue in speaking comes down to the selection of the venue, a matter that few speakers have any control over. If it’s a famous venue like the Royal Albert Hall or the Sydney Opera House, you can have a good idea of what to expect. They are also open to the public so you can check them out before the event.

However, if the venue is a large disused aeroplane hanger in the middle of Oxfordshire managed by the army, there’s less opportunity for access and practice before the event starts.

This brings me on to knowing your audience. If your audience is a battalion of NATO’s finest ground troops decked out in battle dress, you should approach the assignment differently than if you were addressing your local Chamber of Commerce. What are the expectations of your audience and what is in it for them? Choose your material carefully – look for humorous opportunities to connect with them.

An interesting factor to be aware of as a speaker is that your audience, even though they may never have met you, want you to be excellent. Indeed, they are praying that you will deliver something special. The good will which is extended out to the speaker is phenomenal. They want you to be great because they are investing their valuable time in you. They have all seen and heard a lifetime’s procession of bad speaker and they are willing you to come along to inform and entertain them royally.

If you know that you’ll be working at the Royal Albert Hall, Sydney Opera House or in my last big event, a disused aeroplane hanger in the middle of Oxfordshire, try to visualize yourself delivering the speech. I had great fun with this – contemplating this capacious cavern looking out into a sea of camouflage jackets. As I discussed the assignment with friends and colleagues, the images became closer and more focused. I could see faces, haircuts and even badges on berets. On the day, my visualizations were surprisingly accurate and it made me feel at ease. It was like being surrounded by old friends.

When you’re working with a big audience, it’s essential to get off to a fantastic start – and that means planning your opening lines with military precision. Delivering that opening with confidence creates a great atmosphere for you and the audience to work in. That’s why it’s best to start with what I would describe as a set piece. It could be a quotation, a startling statistic, or if you’re really confident, the opening few lines of a song. If you fluff the opening, you’ll feel the latent energy drain from the room.

There are so many factors that contribute to success, these are just a few of them.

Article courtesy of College of Public Speaking & Presentation Skills – London

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