Art of Public Speaking

Communicate with Ease; Having Confidence Means You Can Be Yourself

Linda S. Salac, MA, MIT

Introduction

Leadership is not just one quality, but rather a blend of many qualities; and while no one individual possesses all of the needed talents that go into leadership, each man can develop a combination to make him a leader”

Vince Lombardi

Given all the attention to leadership, quality improvement, and participation over the last ten years, there is one area of our project management professional life that has received too little attention. No matter where we are in the organization we communicate. We wanted to be the best in our product or service because we know how to communicate effectively with ease. The quality of our work, participation, communication team building in project management is essential, but we have to start somewhere. Equally important is the art in leadership that is very important in our profession. Let’s start with communication and public speaking.

It is our pleasant duty to put some new training and public relations ideas to you on the Art of Public Speaking. The charisma that you possess to convey your sincerity is reflected in your ability to persuade; in simple language is the mark of a good leader. You will be perceived by the other person as leader by the way you communicated to the other individual or group of individuals. The ability to speak without alienating or using discouraging remarks is part of the best leader's personal magnetism.

The Scenario

You are about to face over one hundred fifty international leaders from all over the world. The time has come when many business leaders like you and me speak to major groups of international organizations. To me, it is a challenge.

As you roam around the meeting room these exotic voices are charming and delightful. But in a few moments you will face the real challenge. Some speak a smattering of English, some no English, some a goodly amount but they bring a different “twang” from the North, East, South, or Western corners of the United States, namely American English. Don’t panic, communicating with ease and having confidence means you can be yourself. Confidence is one of the 5 Steps for Leadership. When we have confidence we can communicate, cooperate, collaborate and provide the best customer service to our clients, and to our friends as well. There is no question that confidence and trust are two of the important enablers and the bedrock of how we relate to our customers and to our business partners.

2 Minutes & 25% Rule of Leadership

More importantly, we must master the Art of Public Speaking when we influence and sell our product to top management, the decision-makers as well as our business partners. There is nothing more contagious than feeling you are in control of yourself and that you are empowered. We want to engage people to practice the principles of communication, spirit of cooperation, collaboration, and provide our customers excellent service with confidence. Communication is the transfer of our ideas with emotion. Energize your self, plan the road map, and practice your strategies before you deliver that knock out speech or written proposal. A good leader must be aware of cost in presenting to a top administrator, not just the cost of the product or project. It costs money to do a presentation for a customer, to top management. This is my own experience, by billing my self. I earned their attention and I will charge them 25% of my salary to prepare for this presentation and I believe they charged me 25% of their salary for administrative cost in listening to me. After all, the CEO has only two minutes to hear you. Keep that in mind. You will be back for an encore and more because you made a convincing effort to make the impressive performance in your life. Always remember that you are a combination of your looks, style, sound, energy, stature and psyche and most of all you applied the 2 minutes and 25%rule of Leadership.

Being Yourself: New culture and an old process

You are a combination of your looks, style, sound, energy, stature and psyche. Your body, the tilting of your head, your hand gestures will never lie. Even your smiles can be perceived as acting if it does not come from your heart and is not a natural smile. You hear people say, “Your smile is infectious.” Then go spread it to all your friends. Show the enthusiasm, the excitement of what you do as if you hit a home run, caught that football for a touchdown pass or the hole in-one with your golf game, or dancing ballet with Pointe shoes and landed a good pirouette. How you feel, whether or not it is a situation or actions in a normal environment, will give you away. There are many hidden messages that we send like a telegram to another individual. Gestures will give the receiver a complete impression of our self- image too.

Pump you energy with some breathing exercises and get that system charged up. Take your time, don’t rush, and relax. Before entering anyone’s office or boardroom make sure you rehearse aloud and organize your thoughts and ideas. Write them down. Keep your presentation simple, succinct, and always keep the audience point of view in mind. Use an old ballet exercise to breathe, shake hands, and take the off your wristwatch. When you raise your hands and your shoulders are up, you know you are tense. Plan, plan, plan and never leave the important points behind. Have something left over for an encore – should there be a request for more information.

Effective Use of Words

Your attitude should always be that of speaking to a single person – whether your audience is one or one hundred or maybe even one thousand. Do not for a moment think you can do it all in one presentation. Think of the Little Engine That Could - I think I can, I think I can, and I think I can. Start speaking slowly, let the audience get acclimated, then increase your pace as you go along. Vary your tempo; use colour codes in your “cheat sheet”. Use two words instead of four and most of all, talk with your heart and your eyes to different members of your audience.

Hands Can Be a Problem

Because of our cultural differences, project managers all over the world learn that hand and/or gestures can be a problem. Normally we pay no attention to our hands, until we stand to make a speech. Do not gesture continuously. A few telling hand movements, when needed for emphasis, will have greater effect. If you are presenting in another country, learn the culture and the gestures as a mode of communication before you “invent” another one. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

An occasional “Yes”, “I see” shows that the other person is still there, that you are still interested. Watch for some non-verbal cues. An occasional “nodding” of the head won’t hurt either. Just be careful with your hands.

Breathe, Rest, and Colour Pauses

Great dancers and singers use a pause by building up a momentum to their performance. A good talk, speech or presentation can be effective as well if we can just learn how to make use of a tool called “pause”. Give that short pause suspense to energize yourself. Be sure you have something worthwhile to say. Slow down, add colour your presentation. I cannot memorize all that I want to say but I use an old technique of using highlighters on my “cheat sheet”. The mood and colour I have used effectively are blue, green and pinks. Research your colour and chart their interpretations to add drama to your presentation scheme.

Treasure the Accent and Overcoming Language Barrier

We were born with no accent and language. We are all equal. We learned rhythms, tone, and the colour of our speech from our environment. We are the products of that environment. There is nothing wrong with our accent as long as we utilize it effectively. Be the best communicator you can become and treasure the accent given to you. Use your normal speaking voice all the time. Lift that self-esteem. There is always a fear that we are not able to speak like the American. One thing I learned from public speaking is to never ever underestimate the potential of the listener. Realize you own strengths and your limitations. Do not for one moment apologize about how you speak. It is a treasure to have an accent. Speak slowly with class and honour. You can persuade anyone, as long as you make sense in your presentations.

Do not get offended when an individual does not respond to your presentation. Respect the culture of that country. Remember the worldly advice of the DeLai Lama “silence is sometimes the best answer”. Another point to ponder – don’t talk too much. I am always reminded that there is a reason why we were created with 2 ears and only 1 mouth. Listen with your eyes as well as your ears.

The Electronic Age

Microphone, audio-visuals may become your allies or may distract you from your presentation. Speak gently on the microphone as it can warm your voice. Cameras can also become a distraction. Talk to them as if you are talking to another person. A hand held microphone is another “distraction”. Please do not use it as a weapon, neither wave the microphone; swoosh it and will sound like a typhoon. Use the hand held microphone as if you are singing your favourite tune in your Karaoke machine.

There are helpful hints for making a power point presentation. Create slides that will enhance your presentation with emotional proof that you are conveying the message with finesse and truth. The rule of thumb is six words on a slide. Handouts are good if done correctly. You want your audience to focus on you instead of reading the handouts. The audience in your presentation came to hear you, and not read the slides. If you are a sharp shooter, use bullets and dash in your power point. Never ever talk and repeat what you already said in your power point. It is also not good etiquette to turn your back on your audience. Always keep in mind these simple rules:

  • What do you want your audience to do?
  • Is the audience listening to you or watching a screen?
  • Do you want your audience to learn something?

A point to ponder when presenting and utilizing the electronic media is not to leave anything to chance. Ahead of time, inspect your speaking area. Acclimate yourself in the environment in which you will be doing your presentation. Arrive early to check all the equipment. If all possible, have someone assist you in your presentation if available. Clicking and speaking is not that easy. You want the best in your presentation and if you will need help, ask for it. Practice with your assistant how they will be cued when you have slides. Being distracted by the electronic gadgets can ruin your presentation.

Attires

Need I say more? A professional presenter wears clothes that are comfortable. Just remember that clothes you wear help you express your emotion. Anything in your attire that clashes with your personality and your presentation should be eliminated.

Organizing Your Material

Most of us spend about 70 to 80 percent of our lives engaged in some form of communication such as writing, speaking, or listening, we increase sales because we listen and communicate well with our customers, with top management. Be organized. Follow the old process in this new culture. Utilize your time management skills when negotiating or presenting your ideas.

  • Central Idea – increase sales earnings for the company or a need for the project to received approval from top management;
  • Purpose – get your sales force to increase their sales orders:
    • You must instil pride in the product or service you provide;
    • You must spark their natural desire to earn more;
    • You must “fire” them up with enthusiasm;
    • You must provide “value” of the product.
  • Result – your customers are happy and the service you provide is good. The orders for your service grow.

Final Words of Wisdom

At the end of your presentation “praise” yourself. Like a dancer, a singer, an actor, we research, practice and practice a 2 minutes performance for at least six months or more. You can do it too. Practice, practice, and practice before a presentation whether it is to a single person or to one thousand. Verbal words by themselves have many meanings in addition to their definitions in the dictionary but non-verbal cues can make or break your presentation. Build the skills. Be brilliant, make yourself glow. Let top management see you sweat. Let others see you sweat. Earn your strife and the gold medal. Leaders earn the right to lead because they manifest that character and integrity, and they get results. Communicate with ease because having confidence is being your self. You learned it right here at the Project Management Institute.

Caroselli, M. (2000). Leadership skills for managers, New York: McGraw Hill,

Griessman, E. (1974) Time tactics of very successful people, New York: McGraw Hill

Charles Kebbe, C. (1983) Profitable public speaking. New York:Atheneum.

Lombardi Jr., V. (2001) What it takes to be number #1, New York: McGraw Hill

Nierenberg, G. & Calero, H. (1971, 1993) How to read a person like a book. New York: Barnes &Noble, Inc 10 Tips for Successful Public Speaking from http://www.toastmasters.org/pdfs/top10.pdf

This material has been reproduced with the permission of the copyright owner. Unauthorized reproduction of this material is strictly prohibited. For permission to reproduce this material, please contact PMI or any listed author.

© 2005, Linda Salac
Originally published as a part of 2005 PMI Global Congress - Singapore

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