Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Are You Ready To Speak? 7 Tips for Last Minute Speaking.

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You've been put on the spot. Maybe you've been called to give a report or summary at the meeting in 30 minutes, or you've been asked to give a religious testimony, or the discussion unexpectedly turns to your expertise in widget marketing, and you've been asked to contribute your great knowledge to the group.

What do you do? Are you ready to speak? Are you even WILLING to speak? Many times our first inclination is to say "I can't, I won't, or I need more time." Our speaking muscles are weak when it matters, despite the strong, logical, and enthusiastic arguments we can muster about the Pittsburgh Steelers' defensive line or the lousy customer service from the cable company.

Obviously we can't always be ready to talk instantly about anything - even if its a topic we're very familiar with. Where we can improve, however, is how quickly we GET ready to speak.

1. Say yes. The more you say yes, the stronger your speaking muscles get, and the more time you'll save in the future. A racing car pit crew doesn't get faster by sitting around doing nothing - speak, speak, speak.

2. Breathe. Monitor your breaths in the minutes leading up to your speech, and make sure you are in a calm physical state when you begin. If you have to pop up and speak immediately, breathe, summarize the question request if you need time to get into a groove, and then begin.

3. Instead of thinking about what you know, think about what the audience wants to hear. This will help you edit what you're going to say from the beginning, and save you countless seconds sifting through everything you've got to say.

4. Pause. Don't be afraid to stop speaking at the end of a sentence or point.

5. Write a three step outline. Start with the overall point you want them to get. Above, put a question, statistic, or thesis statement to open with. Below, write the last line you want to say, perhaps mirroring your opening. Armed with these three flashpoints, you will sound more prepared than most, and you'll stay on topic.

6. Don't disqualify yourself. Make no statements that refer to 'the last minute', 'wasn't expecting to speak', 'not ready'. This gives your audience permission to ignore you, not sympathize with you.

7. Just do it. As my friend and coach Tom Cantrell says: Stand Up, Speak Out, and Sit Down!

While its not Toastmasters Friday today, it only makes sense to recommend you join a club if you haven't already. The Table Topics training alone is worth the small bi-annual cost.

Don't sell yourself short by saying "I can't, I won't, or I need more time." Exercise those muscles, and allow yourself to Speak...and Deliver!

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