What are your burning questions when it comes to public speaking?
In this post, you will gain the insights I shared to four of the questions sent to us on Facebook.
Question 1 (from Romarc Igualdo Guyon)
How public is public speaking?
It can be as public as it gets.
You might be speaking to a small audience or large audience. You might be speaking to five people, fifty people, or five hundred people.
Public speaking happens in many occasions – from formal to informal events. Campaign. Press briefing. Assemblies. Lectures. Trainings. Conferences. Graduation. Funeral. Weddings. Birthdays. Fiestas.
That’s a warm up question I guess. So we proceed to the next question.
Question 2 (from Tin Dao-anis)
What is the simplest strategy in order to deliver a compelling speech when asked on the spot?
I was listening to Craig Valentine, a World Champion Public Speaking. He shared that having a title World Champion of Public Speaking is both a blessing and a curse.
On his flight going back home after the World Championship of Public Speaking, a woman noticed the gigantic trophy he was carrying. She saw the label. It reads, “World Champion of Public Speaking.”
The woman goes, “Wow! World Champion of Public Speaking. Hmmm, come on, say something, say something!”
People would always ask him to say something. Almost every single time. He learned the lesson not to get ready to speak but to STAY READY TO SPEAK.
In a smaller scale, I have experienced what he experienced (not with the world champ trophy). But there are events where people, knowing that I’m a speaker and trainer, would ask me to say something. It is challenging but I have to strive to stay ready to speak. I’m still learning.
So in occasions when you are asked to speak and you are not prepared, the key is to stand up, speak up, and shut up. You don’t have to take much time. Just say sensible words. May it be some words of congratulations, words of sympathy, or words of thanks. Or maybe some relevant information or words of inspiration.
You can stand up and share a story that makes sense. You can share a recent experience and share the lesson you learned from that experience.
You can also stand up and share what you felt in that occasion.
Just be real. Be sincere. And I repeat. Stand up, speak up, and shut up.
Before we leave this question, here are three ways to prepare or stay ready:
1. Keep the practice of writing or journaling. Writing about your experiences, insights, and learnings on paper makes you remember them even more. When the occasion calls you to use them, use them.
When you write something, you will be able to structure it well and even clarify what’s the point, lesson, or message it brings. When the occasion demands, pull that out from your memory and deliver it.
2. Practice sharing your experiences and stories with your family and friends. You can also join Toastmasters and always participate in the Table Topic Session or Impromptu Speaking Session. That will exercise your muscle in impromptu speaking.
3. Prepare beforehand. When you are on your way to an event and you have that feeling that they will ask you to say something, prepare what you can possibly say while on the way.
Question 3 (from Margie C. Thomas)
How can I overcome the tendency to say ‘um, uh’? This is what I always utter when I’m running out of words. Is there a possibility to control this expression?
The reason why we say, ‘um, uh’ and other pause fillers or verbalized pauses is because we are thinking of what to say next. It’s like the mind is catching up with the mouth. And since the thought or idea is not up and clear yet, we utter those sounds ‘um, uh.’ It may be that the speaker forgot what to say next or pehaps the speaker is so nervous or preoccupied with other things.
So here are three prescriptions:
One of the reasons is preoccupation. Meaning, the speaker is not fully present. Hence, you have to make sure that you are there in that moment, in that place, for the occasion, for the audience. You must be present – mind, body, and soul.
You can do some breathing exercises and mindfulness exercises. (We will elaborate this in another post.) And yes, prayer helps.
Prepare. Prepare. Prepare. Included in the preparation is practice. If you are well prepared, you know your material. If you internalized it and you’ve been practicing the delivery, the less likely that you will forget some lines and the less likely that you will utter many ‘ums and uhs’.
Also, proper preparation will help you to be more present.
One of the odd reasons why speakers utter pause fillers is because they are uncomfortable with silence. Note that pauses are important when delivering speeches.
You pause to prepare to say a punch line or something important.
You pause for a while to let the audience absorb what you just said.
You pause to breathe in and transition.
You pause to prepare and clarify in your mind what you are about to say.
All these will come with proper practice, evaluated experience, and coaching.
Question 4. (from Verne Jules Cabading)
When I’m presenting a project that I only had a small part in or a topic I didn’t come up with, it feels like I don’t own it, so I lose confidence in talking about it. How can I own the presentation or at least be confident in presenting it?
Brilliant question. And the answer is in the question. The key word is OWNERSHIP. If you have a small or no participation in a material you are delivering, you will not be as confident as you are in a material that you yourself have prepared.
The cause of the problem is LACK OF OWNERSHIP, so the solution is to TAKE OWNERSHIP.
This can be approached in two different stages.
Before Completion Stage. Based on your experience, you can anticipate events or projects in which you will mostly be asked to present. Hence, take the necessary effort to participate in it, the preparation of which, so there will be a SENSE OF OWNERSHIP.
After Completion Stage. What if you had no way to anticipate it and they only asked you to present it when it was already done? This is more challenging, but you can still OWN it.
Ask yourself, “Can I customize the content and structure?”
I can still remember that moment when my teacher approached me and said, “Chris, you will deliver the welcome remarks. Here’s the speech.” That was two days before our high school graduation day. They wanted me to deliver a speech that someone else prepared. (Actually, I don’t remember how many days I had but to me, it seemed like I just had two days.) Yikes! I would have wanted to write my own speech and deliver it. But that was not the case.
The task of preparing the speech was not given to me beforehand because they didn’t know yet the ranking of the honor list. That was my assumption! So being the good boy that I am, I just said, “Yes, ma’am.”
Now, I had to make it my own. I had no time and could not customize or change the content and structure. But I could customize the style and delivery by OWNING it. How? Rehearsal and repetition. I kept practicing it. In my mind and out loud. I internalized it.
When the ceremony came, I stood on stage and delivered the opening remarks with confidence, ownership, and sincerity.
So again, if you cannot customize the material, jump into your rehearsal mood and internalize it.
What if you can customize the content and structure? Much better.
In a community that I was serving at, there were occasions when I would be asked to preach or speak because the preacher or speaker had to attend an equally important event. In that particular community, there is a standard material that is being downloaded coming from the main preacher (the founder).
You cannot change the main message but you can change or customize the examples. You can use your own stories to make it personal. You can tweak the structure a bit. And that’s what I did.
The message is not mine, but some of the examples and stories are mine. From there, I would practice it and internalize it – having that SENSE OF OWNERSHIP and SENSE OF PARTICIPATION.
With the grace of God, I was able to deliver the message well.
The other aspect of this question is PRIDE, and thus, will be addressed by HUMILITY. I believe this is not you, but some people might say they don’t like to deliver what’s not theirs. But what if that’s your job. Then do it.
Having that humility to accept your role, your level of participation in certain endeavors, your role in the greater scheme of things. Accept it and do what you can. Take the stage. Own it. And deliver what you are meant to deliver.
Learn to stay ready to speak.
Minimize pause fillers by being present, prepared, purposefully use pause.
And take ownership of your presentation.
If you have public speaking questions, feel free to post it on the comments sections. Don’t forget to share this to a friend in need.
If you need speech coaching, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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