Know Your Speech

Posted by Kristin Arnold on April 26, 2011

A CEO recently gave a presentation to a group of CFOs about the critical skills every CFO needs to have.  The information was impressive: data collected from over 75 CEOs about what’s important to the audience’s success.  The CEO prefaced his comments by saying, “I want this to be a conversation….”

In his head, he was thinking “conversation.”  In his heart, he was thinking, “I don’t want to loose control.”  He then proceeded to share slide after slide without creating any space for interaction.  He could have asked an intriguing question and then suffered the silence until he received a reply.  He could have animated the slide to show the question first and let the group speculate on the answers.  He could have taken a poll of the group and compared the CFO answers to the CEO answers.

He could have… but didn’t.  The result?  It was boring.  Great information but duller than dirt.  For this CEO, he didn’t want to loose control.  And it’s not like he’s a control freak either.  He just didn’t think through how he was going to talk about his topic.  Sure, he had interesting slides, but you need more than interesting slides to engage and involve the audience.

You need to know your speech with and without your slides. This seems pretty obvious, but I continue to be amazed at how many people just “wing it.”

Yes, you should have an outline with your key points, memorable phrases and stories, key actions to make the speech amazing in the eyes of the audience, and a call to action at the end.

Yes, you should practice your speech until you are sufficiently comfortable with the opening, the closing, the stories, and the actions you will take to involve the audience.

No.  I am NOT talking about rote memorization.  Although there is a time and place for you to memorize your speech, most presentations in the workplace do not need to be memorized.

However, in order to pull this off, you need to prepare.  Be as much of an expert in the topic as you can possibly be.  Immerse yourself in the content.   Be relevant (see #2).  Think through how you are going to encourage participation.  Be fluent so you can bend like a willow when the audience does interact with you or when the unexpected happens, which it will according to my good friend Murphy.

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