Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Public Speaking: Remain Conscious

By "remain conscious" I don't mean in the physical sense (although it is hard to get through your presentation if you're passed out on the floor). What I mean here is that you need to remain conscious of the words that are pouring out of your mouth.

Have you ever heard a speaker who's mind seems to be somewhere else? He keeps saying the wrong things and not even realizing that he's said them. He'll say something like, "The 3 worst things to do are..." and then lists the three best things and everyone in the audience is looking at each other thinking, "He meant best, right?" What's worse is when he just keeps talking, not even realizing that everyone in the audience is confused.

What's going on in the speaker's mind when these slips happen? Usually one of two things:

1. The speaker practiced his talk word for word 50 million times, to the point that even he is so bored by it that his mind checks out and his mouth is still running. It reminds me of a flight I was on where the pilot announced there was a 1 minute time difference between Bangkok and Singapore instead of 1 hour. The plane wasn't the only thing on auto-pilot that day!

2. The speaker is focusing on too many things at once. It isn't easy to think about what you just said, what you're going to say next and what is coming out of your mouth now, all at the same time. Add on top of that all the other thoughts in your mind like how much longer you have to speak, whether the audience likes your slides and how you wish you wore different shoes that day, and suddenly it's very easy to have slips of the tongue.

So, how do we ensure these embarrassing slips don't happen? Here are a few tips:
  • Focus on "now" - Think about what you're saying as you say it
  • Don't practice too much - Sometimes enough is enough
  • Keep your material fresh
  • Make sure you are well-rested
  • Clear your mind of outside thoughts before you start your speech
  • Relax - Being nervous can over-ride your logical thought process
  • Keep your points simple and clear so you and your audience can keep them straight

Have I forgotten anything? How do you stay clear and collected during your speech?

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