Practical Public Speaking

What should you consider before taking to the stage to address a meeting?

Having the ability to speak in public, to address a meeting and to deliver a message that an audience will find to be both interesting and memorable, is a competency every manager should strive to develop.  It is a skill that requires constant stretching and this often takes us outside of our comfort zones.  So, how should we approach public speaking to enable our message to come across well and to be remembered?

There is more to speaking than sharing a few words. Here are the top nine characteristics displayed by successful public speakers; why not give each one of them some thought and decide how you could incorporate them into your next meeting:

1. Solid Content – even a person lacking charismatic gifts can develop solid content. Always share something the audience finds valuable to their lives.

2. Humorous – it is hard to hate someone you laugh with. The best speakers find a way to get people smiling early in the programme. It opens hearts and makes the group receptive. You don’t have to be hilarious, just humorous.

3. Organized – there is no excuse for rambling through a presentation. Have your notes structured in a way that keeps you on pace and on target. Listeners should feel they received a message that made sense and was easy to remember.

4. Approachable – some speakers try to get in and get out as fast as possible, but the audience likes to know the speaker is available and approachable. One of the best ways to make a good impression is to get to the event early and meet people as they come in.

5. Authenticity – it is said that honest arrogance is preferred over false humility. We all want to know people are being honest with us and that what we see is what we get. Be true to yourself and others by being the same around everyone. That way you do not feel like one person in front of an audience and another person at other times.

6. Growing – great speakers continue to grow in the knowledge and application of their craft. They do not rest when reaching a particular level. Instead they continue to stretch and become better.

7. Giving – the best in this profession give without expecting return. Most big name speakers give anonymously to the charities and organizations they cherish. This giving attitude in private creates warmth in public.

8. Natural – try to relax so that you talk and act naturally when you address an audience. In a larger room, you may need to project your voice to ensure that everyone can hear you but always try not to shout; talk naturally but with slightly increased volume.

9. Passionate – speaking transfers energy through words. The more passion you can channel through your message, the greater the chance of it being remembered and applied. No-one has ever said, “I hope the speaker is boring.” Instead they like to say things like, “Wow! She was so excited about her message.”

Effective Staff / Team Meetings

How can you run an effective staff or team meeting?

Can you honestly say, hand on heart, that you conduct effective staff meetings? In reality, many managers would like to think they engage and hold their audience well but, in reality, there is often room for improvement. Be honest! Are your meetings productive and engaging or do you simply deliver official sounding chit chat; worse still, perhaps you deliver a monologue that bores everyone?

Here are some tips to help hone your skills when it comes to holding effective staff meetings:

1) In general – keep them short. Most staff meetings should last less than an hour. You want your staff to spend their time working on things that earn money for your business, not sitting in meetings. Keep them positive. Negative meetings contain insults, ridicule, and attacks. These activities create caution and resentment, which always costs your company money. Keep them interactive. Your staff consists of intelligent people so, put them to work in your meetings to advance the effectiveness of your organization.

2) Share news – give the members of your group one minute to report on progress made in their area of responsibility. You will find that this results in bullet-point reports of essential information. It also prevents people from philosophizing, explaining, justifying, criticizing, and engaging in other unproductive activities. Plan a time budget: 8 to 10 minutes.

3) Teach something – invite a guest expert to give a 10 minute presentation on a particular skill or technology that benefits your group. Tell the expert that you want a logical explanation of practical ideas. You can also ask members of your group to take turns delivering brief tutorials on topics that benefit the wider group. Plan a time budget: 10 to 15 minutes.

4) Practice skills – create team learning activities that sharpen or teach skills needed in your business. For example, you could role play job skills (especially useful for sales teams), solve puzzles (useful for high tech groups), or take quizzes (useful for everyone). Ask group members to take turns bringing an activity that reviews or teaches a valuable skill. Follow this activity with a brief recap of key ideas, then ask the group members to give a fifteen second report on how these ideas can be applied to improve their work. Plan a time budget: 10 to 20 minutes.

5) Solve problems – give each group member a minute to describe a challenge that hinders work on a current project and then let everyone propose solutions. Suggestions should be brief and free of self-aggrandizing explanations or motivational sermons. This process also requires a positive, supportive environment to succeed. If this is used to ridicule, insult, or criticize the individual, then people will be reluctant to reveal issues that need attention. Plan a time budget: 3 to 6 minutes per person.

6) Use a facilitator – a facilitator will help you conduct meetings where the results matter. That way, you can participate, rather than spend your time managing the meeting. A good facilitator will know group decision making processes that move your meeting toward results everyone supports.

What are BIG’s tips for holding effective staff meetings?

Whenever possible, plan your meetings in advance and aim to involve as many members of your audience as possible during the actual meeting. Create and distribute an agenda beforehand so everyone knows what to expect and work out some rough timings for each agenda item; allocate the job of taking meeting minutes, to one of your team. Finally, start the meeting promptly and keep the activities flowing within the time frames you have allocated. Make your meetings short, sharp (i.e. engaging) and snappy!