Speaking in public

- Francis J. Kong (The Philippine Star) - February 5, 2016 - 9:00am

I have this suspicious feeling that I drive event organizers crazy. They are very polite and smile all the time, but the office tells me they have the tendency to freak out, most especially, just days before the event.

They would ask me for my presentation material. But I do not give them anything because I do not want to. I have done this before. I would send my presentation in advance, then would find myself being confined and imprisoned within the contents of my slides and give a talk that frustrates me and makes me feel like I have not done my best.

Most of my repeat clients know how I work. They give me the liberty to be extemporaneous, and I would leave the presentation materials to my daughter Rachel who is so intuitive and knows which slide to flash in front split seconds before I even say it. There is a reason for this. Much of what I talk about comes from sensing the audience. I would arrive at the place early, ask a few diagnostic questions, mark the territory and then do my thing.

It is not unusual for me to change my material even when my Intro AVP is being shown. Rachel knows this and she can switch materials quickly as well. All these are because of one solid principle for presentation: The speaker should be audience-centered. The more the speaker knows the audience, the better the presentation will be.

The worst thing a speaker can do is to be so self-centered. Speakers would design a talk that sounds good to them, but do not even consider whether the audience would find the presentation beneficial or not.

Now, allow me to present some practical tips on how to do an effective and inspiring public speaking.

1. Prepare with a positive disposition

I have been briefed about how important the VIP’s in the audience are. I have been required a complicated structure and program of activities and this could send some chills up my spine.

But in the end, I reason to myself that I have some important ideas to share that would benefit the audience. This is the main objective. And no matter how much of a “VIP” someone is, he or she would appreciate new ideas that could help. I also forego the desire of putting in everything and fearing that things can go wrong.

If things do go wrong, I am prepared to improvise and turn the situation into an opportunity to bond with the audience.

2. Double check tools and technology

It is best to arrive early so that you can go through the tech people. Check if the computer and cables match so the presentation would go smoothly.

Even simply knowing the location of the lectern, the edge of the stage and the back end of it is important. There have been cases where speakers would slip and/or fall down the back portion of the stage and disappear in front of the audience, and I can assure you the event was not even a magic show.

3. Provide good content supported by good delivery

Remind yourself the audience is investing their precious time and attention to listen and watch your presentation. You should have good content that is well-researched, well-studied, relevant and useful for the audience.

The winning formula for any and every presentation is a content that is rich in substance and is accompanied with great delivery. I have witnessed speakers with poor content and tried to make it up with every trick in the book including hand-play, humor, jokes and stories that are totally irrelevant to the subject matter, leaving the audience wondering what the talk was all about.

Delivery is overrated. There is no point in having the audience being wowed by it but learning nothing in terms of substance.

And finally...

4. Value the audience

People are important and valuable. They have invested a part of their lives for you, and so you should not take this lightly. Some of them have fears, concerns and anxieties, while most of them have dreams and aspirations.

Perhaps the answers they have been looking for lies within your presentation that would transform their lives and make this world a little better.

Do not wing it, nor over prepare for it, thinking it will make you perfect. Provide a message that resonates and would help improve your audience’s lives.

Everything is all about the audience and not you, the speaker. And when you and I have done our jobs well, that is its greatest reward.

(Send your leaders. Bring your key people. Attend and experience two inspiring days with Francis Kong learning leadership and life skills in his widely acclaimed Level Up Leadership March 16-17 at the EDSA Shangri-La Hotel. For further inquiries contact Inspire at 09158055910 or call 632-6310912 or 6310660 for details.)


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