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Public Speaking and riding a bicycle

It’s Christmas time. Many parties, speeches, thank yous and celebrations always happen. Like many of you, I have been part of many events where we reflect on the year with friends and colleagues. At almost all of these events a manager, executive, host or committee member gets up and speaks for a few minutes on their thoughts and reflections. What surprises me is the general lack of public speaking skills! It’s seems that these speakers feel they can jump on a bicycle after a long hiatus from riding.

One particular event last week had the speaker holding note cards, speaking softly, using a plethora of filler words and going on and on with no apparent direction in sight. As we were a polite audience, we endured this version of rhetoric and listened from beginning to end with a finale of lacklustre applause. It wasn’t fun for the speaker nor fun for the audience.

If you know you’re going to speak off the cuff in an event, do some preparation and practice. Know (and nail) your introduction along with knowing one to three key points you want to hit on. Think about how you will engage your audience with what you say and how you say it. Finally practice a few times, preferably in front of a video with a smart device. Videoing is hard and time consuming however we are our own worst critic therefore the feedback is harsh yet beneficial. Last is your nerves: don’t fight the nerves, use the energy instead to engage!

These recommendations take no more than about 30 minutes if you’re speaking only for a few minutes (such as the above scenario). This is time well spent in my opinion and something more of us should do in the future! You cannot just get back on the bicycle and expect it to be a smooth ride!

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