Tonight at West Boylston High School...
I'll be addressing the NHA Art Members as they graduate. It's an organization I have tremendous respect for, and even if the graduates don't go into a career in the arts, keeping art with them is extremely important-- and that's what I'll likely talk about.
I never really know, I tend to make up public speaking as I go.
But that's not what I advise YOU to do.
So you've been asked to speak or give a presentation and you're thinking "this is a bad idea"-- I can tell you there was a point in my life that the idea of standing up in front of 50, 100 or even 1000 people would have crippled me. Sent me into a fetal like convulsion ending in projectile vomiting and uncontrollable shakes.
Since that first time, I've probably spoken at 500 different events. Of those 500 there was only one when I was on some serious sinus medicine and my mouth completely dried out so I had to end nearly mid sentence about halfway through my speech, and no one noticed.
That's the big thing.
Remember they aren't watching Chris Rock perform a routine here, one that they've seen on HBO a dozen times. They don't know what you're going to say.
1. You are the expert, that's why they asked you there. Bone up on your subject the night before, but avoid a pre-written speech. If need be bring an index card with some bullet points to ensure you cover what you want to say, but trust me, a keyword is enough to remind you of your intended subject.
I had a situation once where I got to the podium in the darkened theater only to find I couldn't see my index card or what was written on it. Strike one. I ad libbed and got through it. Ever since that day I go into each one with nothing but my iPhone, which I use as a timer.
Know your subject and you'll be fine.
2. Pick a few members of the audience and make them your focal point.
A few faces in the crowd will keep you from looking down at the podium and if you only pick three or four well spread out faces in the crowd it'll make it easier to not think about the other 496 bored ones!
Ha, I joke there.
3. Don't be boring.
Sounds easy right? Don't joke if you aren't a joke teller. Be self depreciating. But speak the hell up. I was once with a friend who refused to do any prep and he gave his speech and when the questions came a woman in the audience stood up and asked if he always talks like he has a bucket on his head.
There's nothing worse than a monotone delivery. Be enthusiastic about your subject.
But most importantly of all-- KEEP IT SHORT-- hence the iPhone timer.
No more than seven minutes is ever needed for any speech.
JFK's inaugural speech was 13 minutes 42 seconds-- we are not Jack Kennedy. Seven minutes is good. You can deliver good information and keep your audience from getting bored.
4. Be PREPARED. I know this sounds like a repeat of #1, but I mean technology wise. If you're going to be using a computer or slides or whatever, get there a good 45 minutes early and make sure everything is working like it should.
5. Be focused. Speak slowly and clearly. Clear your head of all worry and just breath. Take pauses when you speak for emphasis. You'll be fine.
So that's it-- that's what I have.