In socio-political terms, the first quarter of 2010 has proven crucial in learning what not to do.
Amusingly, most of those lessons have come from figures we’ve been urged to shape our lives after. Many felt unconvinced during golf pro Tiger Woods’ public apology for scandalous behaviour. He appeared awkwardly indifferent while reading what was meant to be sincere atonement.
Similarly, Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin disgraced himself during the recent Olympics ordeal when American figure skater Evan Lysacek was forced to defend his gold medal win against an insulting, emotionally charged and impulsive attack.
Odd that individuals graced with the finer aspects of keeping up appearances should tarnish themselves so heavily. Yet as Peter Handal, CEO of performance-based workforce development organization Dale Carnegie Training reveals, even the most cultivated of us can slip, especially when speaking in public.
“It’s very common for individuals not used to speaking in front of an audience to read and rely upon notes to quell nerves and eliminate awkward silences, but it is essential for this to be kept at a minimum if the speaker wants to be perceived as sincere,” he notes. “(Woods’) speech itself was well-written and included all the hallmarks of a heartfelt, appropriate apology but its delivery before a contrived audience left something to be desired.”
In that respect, Handal looks to Lysacek as the epitome of proper public speaking. He got his point across by not relying too heavily upon printed materials, being himself, including the audience in the conversation while keeping it brief, utilizing strong eye contact and injecting his speech with enthusiasm. He also stresses that the overall modus should be to own the topic; know the subject of the presentation well enough to feel comfortable discussing it.
Thankfully, such fundamentals apply to all aspects of public speaking be it in the classroom, lunchroom or boardroom and with any audience from one to one thousand. Furthermore, despite age, gender or background, intent remains constant: To speak with people as opposed to at them via sincerity, pacing, enthusiasm and securing their desire to feel important.
“If the audience feels they are trying to be convinced of something, they will immediately go on the defensive and be less receptive to what you have to say,” Handal closes.
“Talk in terms of (their) interests and use their names often. One Dale Carnegie Training principle states, ‘To them, a person’s name is the sweetest and most important sound in any language.’ Using it often will keep them engaged.”