For many people, when they are asked to make a speech or presentation (at work, at a life event, or in their community), they feel justifiably nervous.
In fact, as Jerry Seinfeld famously riffed, some people suggest they would rather die than speak in public.
Now, I don’t believe that it’s that bad – but it is true that some people genuinely fear speaking in public.
So, in our Wednesday Workshops this year, I’ll be giving you some hints and tips that I’ve gained over 40 years as an educator and public speaker. And the first of them is this:
Stand Up, Speak Up and Shut Up.
STAND UP: It doesn’t matter whether you are being asked to present something to co-workers, or you are delivering the eulogy for a loved one – you NEED to stand up and speak.
You can’t ask someone else to do it … it is your responsibility. And if its an issue in your community that needs to be addressed, then you have a moral obligation to address it. So Stand Up.
SPEAK UP: If you have something to say – if you have something that needs to be said – then you need to speak up and be counted. But you need to organise what you want to say – or you might as well not say it.
Marshall your thoughts. Write them down. Work out what the arguments are in favour of what you are saying – and what the objections might be, Address those arguments, in a logical, sensible, structured way. Or, in a life event, jot down what you MUST say – but also consider what you MUST NOT. Joking about your daughter’s messy room is funny at her wedding. Joking about her myriad boyfriends is not.
So, decide exactly what you want to say, and Speak Up.
SHUT UP: We’ve all been at presentations where the speaker has droned on, and on, and on. It’s painful, isn’t it? And worse, it’s counter-productive. People walk away from those presentations, not remembering not what the speaker wanted them learn. Instead, all they remember of how long the speaker went on and on.
Here’s a lesson from history. At the dedication of a cemetery during the US Civil War, Senator Edward Everett gave a two-hour speech full of polished analogies and creative language. Then, US President Abraham Lincoln spoke for just two minutes. But that two minutes was one of the most powerful rallying-cries in American history – the Gettysburg Address.
The point, of course, is that you need to say what you need to say – and then Shut Up.
So that’s my advice this week – STAND UP, SPEAK UP, and SHUT UP.
Next week, we’ll look at the scout’s motto – BE PREPARED.
And if you have a specific question about learning to speak in public, feel free to ask.