Regardless of the level at which you manage, your schedule includes challenges and opportunities to speak in public. For some, we live for the major public address, civic league discussion, and staff briefing. For others, we fear the idea of public speaking, perhaps even loathe it. Either way, we have to do it at some point in our careers and make the most of them when we do.
So how do we turn our public speaking opportunities into something that is persuasive, creative, and engaging, even if we are nervous? Preparation, of course! Alexander Graham Bell once said that "before anything else, preparation is the key to success" and this couldn't be more true for effective presentations. Preparing beforehand not only empowers and strengthens your approach to speaking but it also shows your commitment to sharing accurate, helpful information, which ultimately enables you to provide better service to the neighbors in your community.
If you're beginning to prepare for that next meeting or panel discussion, here's a list of five ways to prepare, from the ICMA publication Effective Communication.
1. Understand the Purpose at the very Beginning
As you prepare any talk, always ask yourself these questions: Why am I speaking? What do I want to achieve? What's my major point? Which point or points are absolutely vital to my audience?
Jot your answers down quickly, like a brief shopping list. Ponder and rearrange them, eliminating or adding points as you see fit. At this early stage, be receptive to new and different ideas and approaches.
2. Bring in Enough Content
Discuss your subject with others as you develop your speech. Buttress the points you intend to make with pertinent observations. Use solid facts, cases, and examples.
Choosing your main point or points is one of the most important decisions you'll make in planning your speech. Being sure of your main points (select only a few) helps you aim, organize, and reduce clutter. As you decide on your main points, you're laying a foundation for a successful talk.
3. Create a Vision
Next, initiate the three steps to successful preparation: research, analysis, and creative reaching. Research --- and overresearch. You want to be both comfortable with and masterful on your subject. Save ideas, notions, and all materials that relate in any way to your talk.
Always be prepared to catch your thoughts. Be ready to list or dictate your ideas, views, and observations anywhere, anytime.
4. Add Your Own Personal Touch
Review your information. Select and arrange the most relevant items. Then ask yourself, What do I think of my initial design for this speech? Try to consider the message and plan delivery from each listener's point of view.
Next, train your thoughts on your personal position on the topic of your speech. This will help focus you on your conclusions. Your thoughts and feelings are the spark plugs that can make your talk personable, persuasive, and memorable.
5. Develop a Demeanor
The wonderful thing about your voice and manner is that both can be continually improved. Yet many local government managers have no idea how they sound or look to others. So videotape and audiotape your next presentation. Watch and listen for your strengths and for the areas that need improvement.
Some other tips include paying attention to your tone, assessing your body language, analyzing your "down" times or moments when you stumbled, and finally, just remember to be yourself.