Vol. 83, No. 11, November 2010
Would you like to reach 40 prospective clients at one time? Well, step up to the microphone. Service organizations like Kiwanis, Rotary, Lions, and Optimist clubs are always looking for speakers to address their groups for free. It’s a win-win situation. They get a speaker at no charge. You have a terrific marketing tool, and more important, are perceived as an expert in your practice area.
Tips for Your Talk
You may have heard that the fear of death is often surpassed by the fear of public speaking. Even lawyers who regularly appear in court may feel out of their element and uncomfortable when speaking to public groups. Thinking about the positive results of delivering a presentation might motivate you to work through your fears. Once motivated, try the following exercises to help you channel your nervousness into energy.
Physical Preparation: Warm up and relax your body and face.
- If you’re wearing high heels, take them off. Now, balance on one leg and shake the other. When you put your foot back on the ground, it will feel lighter than the other one. Next, switch legs and repeat the process. You want your energy to go through the floor and out of your head. This sounds quite cosmic; it isn’t. It’s a practical technique used by actors.
- Shake your hands ... fast. Hold them above your head, bending your arms at the wrist and elbow, and then bring your hands back down. This will make your hand movements more natural.
- Warm up your face muscles by chewing in a highly exaggerated way. Do shoulder and neck rolls. Imagine that you’re eye level with a clock. As you look at 12, pull as much of your face up to 12 as you can; now move it to 3, then down to 6, and finally
over to 9.
All these exercises warm you up and relax you. The exaggerated movements make it easier for your movements to flow more naturally.
Preparation is a key element to making a solid presentation. Here are a few tips that will help you deliver an effective presentation.
Psychologists have proven that the first and last 30 seconds of any speech have the most impact, so give the open and close of your talk a little extra thought, time, and effort. Do not open with, “Ladies and gentlemen, it is a pleasure to be here tonight.” It wastes too many of those precious 30 seconds.
The conventional wisdom is that you should open a speech with a joke or funny story. Before you decide whether to use this technique, ask yourself these questions:
- Is the joke or anecdote appropriate to the occasion and for the audience?
- Is it in good taste?
- Does it relate to you (your product or service) or the event or the group? Does it support your topic or its key points?
A humorous story or an inspirational vignette that relates to your topic or audience is a sure way to get an audience’s attention. However, it takes skill to present a story effectively. For inexperienced speakers, it often is safer and more effective to give the audience what the speakers already know.
A good way to open your speech is by giving the audience the information they most want to hear. Think about the questions you hear most at cocktail receptions or professional society meetings. Put the answers to those questions in your speech.
A scientist with Genentech was preparing a speech for a women’s group. Since he thought most of the audience probably didn’t know what scientists are like or what they do, he told them what it was like to be a scientist. “Being a scientist is like doing a jigsaw puzzle in a snowstorm at night ... you don’t have all the pieces ... and you don’t have the picture to work from.” You can say more with less.
The close should be one of the highlights of your speech. Summarize the key elements to your presentation; for example, an overview of the local real estate market, preparing a will or estate planning, your investment process, the value of a home’s preventive maintenance, and the like. If you plan to take questions, say, “Before my closing remarks, are there any questions?” Finish with something inspirational that ties into your theme.
The Genentech scientist told of the frustrations of being a scientist, and he closed by saying, “People often ask, ‘why should anyone want to be a scientist?’” His closing story told of a particularly information-intensive medical conference he attended. The final speaker at that conference opened her talk to the scientists with, “I am a 32-year-old wife and mother of two. I have AIDS. Please work fast.” The Genentech scientist received a standing ovation.
Outline for Your Speech
There are two basic outlines that work well for a beginning speaker.
Then-Now-How Outline. “This is where I was. This is where I am. This is how I got here.” This outline helps tell the audience who you are and why you are qualified to speak on the topic you’ve chosen.
Patricia Fripp is an executive speech coach, sales presentation trainer, and keynote speaker on sales, customer service, business promotion and communication skills. She is the author of Get What You Want! Make it, So You Don't Have to Fake It!, and is a past president of the National Speakers Association. Contact her at www.Fripp.com, (415) 753-6556, or PFripp@ix.netcom.com.
Recently, a friend asked that I help her with a talk she had been asked to present. I asked three vital questions you must also ask yourself: Who is the group to whom you are speaking? How long will your talk be? Why have they asked you to speak?
My friend had been asked to do a 25-minute speech for a local group of realtors because of her great success in real estate. I suggested she follow the then-now-how outline and open like this: “Twelve years ago, when I went into the real estate business, I had never sold anything but Girl Scout cookies and hadn’t done well with that. Last year, I sold $50 million of real estate in a slow market selling homes that averaged $150,000 each. In the next 30 minutes you will learn exactly how I did that ... and how you can too!”
The Question-and-Answer Format. People in your audience are like the people you meet in your business or at a cocktail party – they probably all ask you many of the same questions about your work. Think of the questions prospective clients, current clients, and friends ask you about your practice.
Now you can open with, “The five questions I am most frequently asked about estate planning [or whatever your practice area is] are….” Pose the first question to the audience and answer it for them in a conversational manner ... just as you would when talking to a single prospective client. You might have never given a speech before, but you certainly have answered questions.
Writing Your Speech
I don’t believe in just sitting down and force writing a speech. Instead, gather and collect ideas that can build your speech. If you will be addressing a group in the next few weeks, keep a note pad with you and jot down ideas and situations that relate to your talk. When you actually write your talk, you’ll have lots of material to fit into your outline.
Presenting the Speech
Do not read your speech. Write key points in large, easy-to-read letters on a pad you keep on the lectern or table (or in a large, bold typeface in your word-processing document.) Unless you rely heavily on your notes, don’t stand behind the lectern throughout your entire talk. It puts a barrier between you and the audience and they feel it. If you feel you must stand behind the lectern, do not lean on it.
The Introduction. Write your own introduction. Use your resumé as a guide, but customize it to fit the topic on which you’re speaking. Do not include every job you’ve had (for example, your job as a lifeguard when you were a teenager) in your intro unless it directly relates to your subject. Consider these ideas: How long have you been involved in the community? What makes you an expert? Do you have a connection to the organization?
Handouts. Develop a page detailing your key points. If you’ve had an article published, make copies for the audience members. Make sure that the handout includes your name, address, telephone number, email address, and Web address.
Business Cards. If your goal is to develop business contacts, always collect business cards from the audience members. You can offer to send additional information, articles, or tip sheets to them. Or you can offer a door prize (this can be a product you sell or a certificate for a service – a free evaluation of financial status, for example) and ask that everyone drop their business cards into a box from which you or the program chair will draw the winner (or winners) at the end of your talk.
The business cards give you prospective clients with whom you can follow up later. If you offer to provide attendees with written material, you might include an order blank for your product or service.
Just do it!
Speaking before a group of strangers can be intimidating, but focusing on the positive impact the presentation will have on your business reputation and your bottom line might allay your fears.
Don’t expect to be a magnificent speaker the first time out. Your goal is to present the most valuable information possible to the members of the audience. Think of it as the beginning of many long-term relationships.