1. Work out what matters
- What matters to the audience matters most? What do they want to see and know about you? What expectations will they have for your response? Work this out beforehand and share the moment with them.
- Compose a memorable opening sentence that encapsulates you. This opening line should be uniquely you and be delivered in such a way that it truly promotes the essence of who you are. Great sentences can then be used by others to promote you! The opening should always be authentic, connected and aligned with your intentions. This is the key moment of attention – the moment that compels the audience to want to hear more.
- Demonstrate your specialised knowledge in your area of expertise via simple language.
- Restrict yourself to a few core messages - less will always be more.
2. Tell them what you want them to know
- Don't turn it into a moment where you say everything you know and thank everyone in your life. This is a 'public' moment of thanks. You will have plenty of opportunities for private thanks. Overly indulgent speeches can quickly destroy the joyous, celebratory atmosphere. Understand your speech ‘objective' and remain loyal to that. Pursue the key objective of staying connected to the room.
- Present your information in a variety of ways through story, anecdote, research, acknowledgement, and simplicity.
3. Respect the way you use your speech notes or don't take any notes to the podium at all
- Notes will destroy eye contact - rehearse reading for ‘performance'. If your speech is on your phone be aware that you may get a congratulatory text that may block the screen so avoid using your phone if possible.
- Reading long-winded sentences destroy intimacy and spontaneity. Replace these with key points and know your story well enough to ad-lib or improvise in sections.
- Staying present in the room will allow your 'story' of gratitude to flow (especially if you have rehearsed your material).
4. Connect - Allow the audience to 'see' it and 'feel' it
- Paint pictures by taking your audience on a visual/sensory/emotional experience that is worth a thousand words. Think people, places, relationships, colour and movement and take the audience on that journey.
- Stories enhance your message – use descriptive language that involves the audience.
- The quality of the material in your speech will be interpreted as an indicator of the value of your message.
- The shortest distance between two people is a smile or laugh - remember it's all about connection.
- Add other emotions when appropriate.
- Orientate your material, so you are talking to the whole room.
- Open with gratitude and close with the same sentiment.
5. Rehearse, Rehearse, Rehearse
- A speech is an integrated process not a sequential series of steps.
- Create a working 'speech framework' for yourself.
- There is no substitute for preparation and rehearsal.
- Look for material that supports your ideas, values, vision.
- Put your personal style to it.
Stay in the room, stay centred in your own body. On big occasions like an awards Ceremonies, it is very easy to get lifted up by the energy of the moment and lose your centre. Strong diaphragmatic breathing practice will assist in keeping you focused so you can do the job you need to do. Stay in the moment. Remain present. Breathe.
Barbara Warren has worked with the Telstra Business Awards as the speech coach for nine years. Her role is to coach all the extraordinary State and Territory finalists and explore the creative skills required to articulate their stories and achieve impact and connectivity. Barbara’s practical approach is drawn from her own experience as a small business owner, over twenty years’ experience in the corporate world, and more than twenty-five years as a performing arts practitioner. This multi-discipline frame of reference investigates communication from both a delivery and content perspective. All aspects of the presentation skills work she delivers promotes imagination, authentic connection, crafting compelling content and having a clear focus on speaking objectives and benefits.
*Originally published: 10 November 2017. Updated June 15th 2018.