You are currently viewing The Art of Conversation (When Speaking in Public)

I’ve been doing lots of work with my coaching clients recently around the subject of writing for speaking rather than writing for reading.  Although both may convey the same message, each method of communication needs a different approach.

Many of my clients begin speaking in public with a certain reluctance – and are often fearful of ‘missing something out’ so when they come to me, they have this huge desire to write everything down – and I mean everything!  Now this is great as a starting point, so I have no objection to a first draft written in this way in order to decide what it is they want to include.

However, once we start rehearsing, the way the words are written on the page can become a hindrance rather than a help.  If they are written to be read, rather than to be spoken – then the speaker ends up delivering more of a recital than a conversation with the audience.

Here are a couple of tips to ensure that you are engaging and conversing with your audience when you speak – and not simply talking at them!

  • Try laying your words on the page as you would speak them, with pauses denoted by dots and each new phrase (or part phrase) on a new line. So instead of:

‘Many of these business solutions involve asking for help but we often feel bad about doing so. Why might that be? Asking for help is a justifiable action that will increase your productivity.  Ergo, it doesn’t mean you are in some way deficient as a business owner if you are not an expert in every aspect of business life!’ 
You may want to set it out as below:

‘Many of these solutions involve asking for help

… but often, we feel bad about doing so

… why?

… This isn’t Dragon’s Den!

Asking for help is a justifiable action … it’ll increase your productivity

… it doesn’t mean you’re in some way deficient as a business owner if you aren’t an expert in every aspect of business life!’

  • The words are almost the same in each case – but the first example is written (and set out) for reading, whilst the second example is set out for speaking. The latter version tells the speaker where the pauses are, using the three dots, the bold tells them where the emphasis is and the spacing makes it easier to glance at when rehearsing.
  • The amount of words contained in the above example is enough to prompt the speaker’s train of thought – and enough to fit comfortably on a cue card without overload.
  • If you increase the font to around size 14, you will be able to read it from a distance, therefore negating the temptation to bring your prompt cards up in front of your face, obscuring your expression (connection) with the audience.

The ultimate aim is to be able to speak without any prompts, however most of us are only speaking periodically, it isn’t a large part of our role, unlike politicians for instance. Therefore don’t put yourself under enormous stress to learn great swathes of speech by rote.

Realistically, occasional speakers have neither the time, nor the inclination to allocate acres of time to preparation, so compromise.  Put in enough effort and preparation to speak confidently, clearly and with engagement – but none of us need to be Barack Obama or Winston Churchill!

Your Reaction: Do you want to learn how to engage more conversationally when speaking to your audience? Or would you like some more in-depth help with preparing your content to make your life easier when you are ‘on stage’? If so, contact us for additional information or to arrange a chat with one of the Stratus team.