public speaking is like s*x…

…you want to do it well, but if you want it too badly then it will inhibit your performance. ok, i caught your attention with my little claim/teaser and intrigued you with the reveal. now i should add a disclaimer (marketing 101;)): what you’ve read is a quote from Tony Parsons‘ article: ‘Perfecting your speech: how to win over wedding reception and bedazzle the boardroom’.

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just to be clear: i did not learn this at GSB. however improving (significantly) my public speaking was one of the key reasons I’m here. and by public speaking i mean all instances when you interact and use your voice – from an informal conversation, through a class participation, to a presentation in front of your classmates or room full of strangers at a business meeting. some of us are natural-born speakers (and we had a privilege to listen to one of them last Monday during GSB’s TALK: once again chapeau bas Alberto)…but most are not – me included. fortunately one can learn how to be a good public speaker.

Monday’s TALK and today’s brilliant workshop: Think Fast. Talk Smart. by Matt Abrahams triggered the idea for this post. but i will not write about any of those two. I will write about the Tony Parsons’ article instead.

It was not published in a fancy scientific journal. It was published in GQ:)…yet somehow these 2 pages had more insights on how to approach public speaking than anything I had encountered before. curious?

1. for starters, if you’re bad at it – it’s great. you can only get better. as Tony writes: “Luckily for me, my first public-speaking engagement was a disaster. And I mean a wipeout – not so much stumbling over my words as mugging them, feeling the flop sweat of abject failure creep down my back and into my crack, looking up only to wince at the faces of my audience, creased with pity, pain and contempt. Before my public-speaking career had begun, I had reached rock bottom.”…from there you can only go up.

2. You mustn’t care too much, because caring too much kills any speech stone dead. you must care enough. i wish someone had told me that much earlier. you want your speech to be (somewhat) funny, eloquent, to the point. you want it to be remembered. this will stress you out. and if you’re not a good speaker – kill your speech on the spot. so as Tony puts it: “The big secret – you have to learn to say, “So what?” It is not the end of the world if you cock it up. You still get dinner. It can’t always be better than the last time. “Before you speak, remind yourself that it doesn’t matter all that much,” advises Donald Trump. “Most of the people in the room don’t care how well or poorly you do. It’s just not that important.” now the tricky part is how to strike the balance to really care enough – i guess this comes with practice.

3. “Think about your audience first. The rest will fall into place.” says Donald Trump. seems like a cliché, but one that we tend to forget before BIG SPEECHES, because they stress us out. and it is simple – know what your audience expects and then (over)deliver. easy;)

4. PREPARE. P&G says: ‘Perfect Preparation Prevents Poor Performance’. and Mark Twain says: “It usually takes more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.”

5. Don’t (desperately) crave to be funny.

6. Nobody wants you to fail. this is not always true…but it can be, as long as you think it is. i believe that, in this case, deceiving yourself serves the purpose. and honestly there are really few occasions when people genuinely want you to fail.

…for more (and much better) writing on this topic, i encourage you to take a look at the article itself: http://www.gq-magazine.co.uk/comment/articles/2012-06/07/tony-parsons-on-public-speaking

now go and practice!

M.

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