I believe in the power of a great script – I am a speechwriter after all. But I also know a terrific script can’t guarantee a great speech if you’re scared to death to stand in front of an audience. And the fact is, most of us start off feeling pretty scared and have to find ways to calm down, if we want to speak effectively.
Presentation coaches can help. Practice, practice, practice did the trick for me (along with getting in touch with my inner ham.) But the most interesting and unusual cure for sweaty palms has to be the one discovered by Earl Furfine, a serial entrepreneur, IT professional and… endurance racer.
Furfine wrote recently about his first real open-water swim, part of an Olympic distance triathlon. He entered the water nervous about swimming in Atlantic’s waves. About a third of the way through, he caught a glimpse of something swimming by that scared the daylights out of him. He stopped, screamed, but couldn’t find the creature. He resumed swimming BUT THERE IT WAS AGAIN. This time he reached out to grab the beast…and snared his right wrist in his left palm.
The creature was his own hand, obscured by the murky water.
And exactly what does this have to do with speaking? Furfine reports that he used to get very nervous when he had to speak publicly. But now when that happens, he grabs his right hand, the way he did in the water. It makes him smile, and gets him breathing calming again as he heads for the podium.
We can’t all be triathletes, but if we can find a way to remind ourselves that fear of speaking is self-induced, it can help make that fear go away.
My thanks to the folks at the Fairfax Chamber of Commerce for posting my piece in their brand new business blog. As a good writer should, I don’t waste time getting to the point:
Dynamic executives think long and hard about how to improve their skills, so they can both help their organizations succeed and also move forward in their careers. As you weigh the skill sets you need, be sure to include public speaking.
You’ll find the complete post here
Presentation is the ‘Killer Skill’ we take into the real world. It gives us an almost unfair advantage.
The McKinsey Mind: Understanding and Implementing the Problem-Solving Tools
and Management Techniques of the World’s Top Strategic Consulting Firm
You can pretty much sum up my January smartCEO Thought Leadership Piece in six words: A great speech starts with research.
Why? Because a generic, one-size-fits-all speech is guaranteed to bomb.
To engage an audience, your speech must be tailored to a specific time, place and set of listeners. You’ll find some suggestions on how to do that here.
Michael Bay has directed special-effects-laden blockbuster movies (including the Transformer franchise) that have earned literally billions of dollars world wide. He’s won a lot of awards, too, of which I’m sure he’s very proud. But I don’t think he’ll be overjoyed should he learn that he is 2014’s recipient of the first ever “Worst Speech of the Year,” bestowed by all of us here at “The CEO at the Mic.”
The award is for his, um, presentation at last January’s gigantic Consumer Electronics Show. Samsung brought him out on stage before hundreds of journalists and industry professionals, packed in a Las Vegas hall, to sing the praises of the company’s ultra-high definition curved TVs . But apparently something went wrong with the teleprompter, and Bay flubbed his opening lines. He went mute for a second, then complained about the ‘prompter. The Samsung executive acting as MC tried very calmly to feed Bay his lines….but to no avail. Bay said, “I’m sorry,” and walked off the stage to stunned silence.
Mike, you have to prepare for theses things, dude.
In particular, if Bay were a reader of this column, he would have known these rules for effective executive speeches.
1. Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
2. At the very least, memorize your key points so you can wing it in case technology fails, or you simply lose your speech.
3. Never, ever wait till the last minute.