Apparently, the old underwear trick doesn’t work anymore.
Last year my son confided in me his nervousness about making a speech at his school assembly. I shared the old tip “pretend they’re all wearing just their underwear”. He replied, “Mum, that’s even scarier!”
And he’s probably right!
Public speaking is one of the most terrifying prospects we mortals face.
In my experience, there are just a few essential ingredients to becoming a screaming success on the stage. Here are my top public speaking tips for procurement professionals.
1. Talk about what you love – A lesson I learnt very early in my career was to only talk on topics you really know well, are comfortable with, and – ideally -passionate about.
Let me return to my (then) 8-year-old son’s school assembly presentation. He insisted that his topic was “Piranhaconda” (which, in case you missed it, is the sequel to the much better known “Sharktopus”). Both are B-grade (at best) movies that involve a lot of terribly clichéd, semi-clad, screaming women and tough guys with guns/missiles. Get the picture?
At the risk of being personally embarrassed at his selected topic for this highly competitive, academic audience, I encouraged him to talk about what he loved…(a movie about crazy hybrid animals) and he did a sterling job. Barely referring to his notes, he spoke with passion and was rewarded with a glowing review in the weekly newsletter (phew!).
My point here is, that no matter what your topic, if you talk about something you know and love, you are going to do a much better job. Your audience will be so much more appreciative if they feel passion coming from the podium.
So, spare the time to really think about your topic. Uncover and share where your real enjoyment is generated from. It may not be the technical details of your new eProcurement system or contract management process, but more about how you managed your team, and managed the change.
2. Also talk about the BAD stuff – A stalwart of my inner-circle procurement community is Santos’ CPO, David Henchliffe. He’s always encouraging The Faculty’s Roundtable members to share “when things go wrong”.
The quote “we learn from our mistakes” could not be truer. A mistake shared is a community lesson learnt. Everyone benefits. Sharing your failures also supports your authenticity as a leader. If you can show your vulnerability and humility you become a lot more accessible to people. Plus, let’s face it – nobody’s ever going to believe that your project/learning process was as perfect as some presenter would have us believe.
Tell your audience you overcame adversity – tell them how your number one supporter stabbed you in the back, tell them how your funding floundered, complain about moving goal posts, how your supplier stalled at the gate – your audience will love it! Why? Because (of course) this is their world too!
3. Write it down. That’s right – commit the whole darn thing to paper or screen! Why? Because it’s the only way you can guarantee you have really worked through your thinking. Many years ago, I remember hopping onto the stage with my dot points, confident in my subject matter, only to make a less than optimum impression when I ‘um-ed’ and ‘ah-ed’, circled back on previous points, and then took 200 words to say what I could have said in 20.
Writing out your whole speech gives you the opportunity to really think through your structure and how you want to effectively make your points. You can make your dot points from there and throw all the detail away once you’re clear about your speech.
Of course, the other MAJOR advantage of committing your thoughts to paper is that you can then fashion it into a blog, post it immediately on the day of your speech (ideally – exclusively on Procurious!), and encourage people who connect with or follow you to read and reflect on your thoughts. In this way, not only are you communicating to those in the audience, but you are also ‘amplifying’ your views through social media. A very nice ROI on your time!
4. Jettison the Jargon – Like you, I have sat through way too many procurement presentations that are strikingly similar in both their content and delivery. If we are going to individually and collectively ‘spice it up’ and enthuse our profession, we need to create a bit of a stir with our language and choice of vocabulary.
Because people stop listening when they hear repetition. You need to keep them listening by using different words and terms that make them think about what you are saying.
5. Make it Visual – Story-telling is now a well-accepted formula for successfully communicating a message. Use it! Kill the PowerPoint – it sends your audience into a semi-comatose state where they are more focussed on the timing of your next slide change, than what you’re actually saying. Use emotive and unusual photographs and infographics (that people can read from the back of the room).
6. Practice, Practice, Practice – I was surprised to read in the book “Talk like Ted” that the best Ted Talkers have rehearsed their speeches up to 200 times. They practise with friends, colleagues, anyone who will listen. And it’s not just about delivery, it’s about fine-tuning the words they use and simplifying them as much as possible to gain clarity. They write and re-write their presentations to ensure they are communicating what they really mean.
7. Make it quick – “Talk like Ted” also insists that speeches should be specifically 18 minutes only! Apparently that’s the magic number for giving your audience enough, but not too much, information! Audiences today are growing more and more used to the sound bite. Leave your audience wanting more, rather than being bored and switching off.
So there it is! Good luck with your next speaking engagement – I look forward to feeling the passion coming from the podium!