Public Speaking – An Art

Many young executives convince themselves that they cannot speak in a public forum. They imagine the worst will happen, such as the mouth drying up, legs shaking, or going completely blank. These things can happen to the best of people. On the other hand, there are people who love to hear themselves and speak endlessly, which can be very annoying for the audience. In both cases executives tend to lose out on making a mark for themselves in this competitive world. While making a good presentation can be tough, but not that bad, for you to avoid.

The ability to present to groups of people like colleagues and clients, is very key to career growth. Without that you can be a back room worker, and a highly paid knowledge expert, but not as effective as a great leader. In an inscription found in 3000 year old Egyptian tomb, it said: “Make thyself a craftsman in speech, for thereby thou shalt gain the upper hand”

Presenting to a group, is much different to having a group chatter. When you are executing a pitch or delivering a talk, it is like singing solo. The responsibility is entirely on you to hold the attention of the audience, keep them engaged and respond to virtually all their queries. Whereas, in a group conversation the participation is equal and it can be steered as you like. But a good conversationalist needn’t be a great presenter. Singing solo is a different ballgame as opposed to a group melody because you become exposed and vulnerable.

Exactly for these reasons, a well delivered script, is a matter of admiration and it is really worth championing the skill.  So, what does it take to be an effective speaker? There is no standard formula to do so. However, there are some good practices that can help you master the art. There are two major parts to a presentation, the script and the delivery. Both, aspects need due attention.

First, making the presentation relevant and meaningful requires a good understanding of the audience, to tailor your content. Plus, understanding their background can help establish a connect, and build a nice lead in to the session.  With that, knowing your subject is crucial and being thorough with research makes your recommendations and point of view, compelling. It is important that the contents are understood by the audience, in the manner you would like them to comprehend. Think of it accordingly to construct your plot. A test run with a bunch of friends or colleagues always helps and you can figure if the message is on the dot.

Second, it is about how you execute. Once content is in place, making a summary, is a good way to remember your talk points. Additionally, rehearsing is a fantastic way to muster your confidence and speak with conviction. More often than not, we walk into a presentation without having practiced enough, which is not a great idea if you want to be impactful. To make your delivery strong, it always helps to draw a set of anticipated questions and prepare appropriate responses. It makes you sharp and relevant. But, how you deliver – body language and style,  also matters a lot.

The way you present, will always be unique. It is important to create your own style of execution, while you may take cues from your favorite speakers. The important thing is to have a relaxed state of mind and get comfortable. It allows you maximum control over your speech and makes it effortless. There’s nothing like throwing yourself to such opportunities. It just gets better each time, provided the basics are in place.

Making a presentation to an audience is like a live performance in my view and you will know instinctively what’s working, what’s not. There are some who are very animated when they talk, and then those who just stay still, all through. In either scenario, a dash of humor can always light up the audience. Should be relevant though.  At the end of it, it is audience participation and dialogue that makes a session interactive and meaningful. Raising questions, using quotes, data, visual elements and relevant examples can make the session very engaging and conversational, indeed!

A well-crafted presentation, creates a top of mind recall for the audience and makes you unforgettable. Investing time in developing the skill, and overcoming your shyness, fears and nervousness, can go a long way in growing your leadership role. So, take the opportunity, and build your presence.

The views and opinions published here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the publisher.

Arneeta Vasudeva
Arneeta Vasudeva is a National Head, PR & Influence, Ogilvy India. She spearheads the Influence and PR domain of Ogilvy in India and supervises its business growth and devices development strategy. Arneeta’s key roles in the firm include promoting cross-category experience and network capabilities in Public Relations

Previously, as Head Communications and Community Relations Textron India, Arneeta led strategy and implementation for Internal & External Outreach in the region in close collaboration with a multi-stakeholder audience in TIPL and across Textron Business Units, globally. With over two decades of experience combining agency and corporate function, Arneeta has worked in a 360 environment and led multi-stakeholder and integrated campaigns in India and ASEAN region.

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