I have often trained executives and others to do media interviews and I do enjoy the transformation, over a solid training session, in their ability to handle media questions. But when it comes to presentation training and especially delivering a speech, I really love the immediate effect a training session can have on someone.
One example was a politician who was entering her first election campaign. She was used to speaking at her local club where she was very involved, but when it came to delivering a speech to those she didn’t know, she was not as polished – indeed sometimes she just froze.
For her, it all eventually came down to three things; knowing her message, being comfortable in knowing what she wanted to say, and thirdly in her case, was being comfortable in the language she used, her words – not someone else’s. That was the element that struck me most, that speechwriters, and I have written a fair number of speeches in my day for politicians, executives and directors alike, write in a way that tends to suit the audience and not necessarily to suit the speaker.
Getting to the heart of a message is the always the primary focus in the first session and three or four bullet points is a good foundation to build on. In her case, our three or four messages turned out to be six but it needed to be six, as she had a number of issues she was championing that she was passionate about.
But for her, it was the language and actual presentation where she needed the most help and encouragement. She needed to use her own words and be herself. She wasn’t an overtly confident person, but when she was in her comfort zone with her message, and the language she wanted to use to get her message across, we went to work on her actual presentation.
I love to see presenters get out of their “comfort zones” or in this case get out from behind the podium, especially first time politicians who must show their audiences that they are open and accessible. It’s not just the words that are important in speech delivery, it’s the non-verbal language that is also important. When she presented, we decided that for her notes she would use single words or a couple of words on a card to enable her to keep to a flow in her presentation, but she would not try and learn off her speech by wrote, she had to deliver it, not just read it.
Imagine my delight during her first presentation when, half way through her speech, microphone in hand she walked from behind the podium and stood beside it and continued to speak directly to her audience with passion and enthusiasm. She had engaged with her audience as never before and the crowd believed her sincerity in not just what she said but in the way she said it.
Oh and yes – she did get elected!