The P's and Q's of Public Speaking '
The P's and Q's of Public Speaking '10 Steps to a
by Alan Fairweather
(c) Alan Fairweather 'All Rights reserved
Avoid the pain
Which would you prefer 'root canal dental surgery without
an anaesthetic or a bit of public speaking? According to the
people who research these things, most of us would prefer
Public speaking is still one of our greatest fears and it
turns grown men and women into nervous wrecks. The mere
thought of it turns our tongue to cotton wool, causes our
internal plumbing to act up and our kneecaps to start
knocking lumps out of each other.
The problem is that Public Speaking catches up with many of
us at some time both in our business and personal life.
You're asked to do a short talk at Fred's "leaving do". The
organisers of your business club want fifteen minutes on why
you make "kafuffle" valves. A potential client wants a
presentation on why they should give you the contract.
Of course there's always the confident people who think "I'm
real good at this, lead me to the podium." The only thing
that some of these people could bore your socks off and do
more for insomniacs than the strongest sleeping pills.
Maybe you'll be lucky enough to be sent on a Public Speaking
course by your enlightened employer. But more likely, when
asked to make a presentation you'll get hold of a book on
speaking, start writing the speech and lose sleep until the
Well, there's no need for all of this because help is at
hand. All you need to remember are your P's and Q's. Let's
start with the P's
When you sit down to write what you're going to say, bear in
mind who you'll be speaking to. Will they understand what
you're talking about; will they understand the technical
stuff and the jargon? If in doubt remember the old saying
"Keep It Simple Stupid". To quote Aristotle '"Think as the
wise men do, but speak as the common man".
Make sure that what you say has a beginning, a middle and an
end. Think of some anecdotes that help reinforce your
People think visually so paint verbal pictures for your
audience. And always remember, people want to know what's in
it for them 'so make sure you tell them!
Have a look at the venue before the event if you can. It's
not always possible, however, even if you get there half an
hour before, you can check out where you'll be speaking.
Stand at the point where you will deliver from, imagine
where the audience will be and check that they can see and
hear you. You may even wish to place a glass of water where
you'll be able to find it.
Before any speaking event, think about what you are going to
wear; when in doubt dress up rather than down. You can
always take things off for a more casual look. Men could
remove their jacket and their tie. Women could remove items
Part of your personal preparation should include some mouth
and breathing exercises. Practise saying some tongue
twisters to give your speaking muscles a good work out. Take
a deep breath and expand your diaphragm. Then breathe out,
counting at the same time, try and get up to fifty and not
As part of your personal preparation, write your own
introduction. Write out exactly what you want someone to say
about you, large font, double-spaced and ask the person
introducing you to read it. Believe me they won't object and
will probably be pleased and impressed.
Poise and Posture
Whenever you're called to speak, stand up or walk to the
front quickly and purposefully. Pull yourself up to your
full height, stand tall and look like you own the place.
Before you start to speak, pause, look round your audience
and smile. You may even have to wait until the applause dies
down. Remember, you want the audience to like you, so look
likeable. Practise this in front of a mirror or your family;
I've heard that children make pretty good critics.
I'm suggesting you pretend you're not nervous because no
doubt you will be. Nervousness is vital for speaking in
public, it boosts your adrenaline, which makes your mind
sharper and gives you energy. It also has the slight side
effect of making you lighter through loss of body waste
materials. The trick is to keep your nerves to yourself. On
no account tell your audience your nervous, you'll only
scare the living daylights out of them if they think you're
going to faint. Some of the tricks for dealing with nerves
Get lots of oxygen into your system, run on the spot and
wave your arms about like a lunatic. It burns off the stress
chemicals. Speak to members of your audience as they come
or at some time before you stand up. That tricks your brain
into thinking you're talking to some friends. Have a glass
of water handy for that dry mouth. Stick cotton wool on your
kneecaps so people won't hear them knocking.
One word of warning 'do not drink alcohol. It might give
you Dutch courage but your audience will end up thinking
you're speaking Dutch.
This is it, the big moment when you tell your audience what
a clever person you are and have them leap to their feet in
thunderous applause. Okay, let's step back a bit 'if you
want their applause then you're going to have to work for
it. Right from the start your delivery needs to grab their
Don't start by saying '"Good morning, my name is Fred
Bloggs and I'm from Bloggs and Company." Even if your name
is Bloggs, it's a dead boring way to start a presentation.
Far better to start with some interesting facts or an
anecdote that is relevant to your presentation.
Look at the audience as individuals; I appreciate that this
can be difficult when some of them are downright ugly.
However it grabs their attention if they think you're
talking to them individually.
Talk louder than you would normally do, it keeps the people
in the front row awake and makes sure those at the back get
the message. Funnily enough, it's also good for your
And for those of you who haven't heard of it, it's a
software programme that's used to design stunning graphics
and text for projection onto a screen. As a professional
speaker, I'm not that struck on PowerPoint. I feel that too
many speakers rely on it and it takes over the presentation.
After all, you're the important factor here. If an audience
is going to accept what you say then they need to see the
whites of your eyes. There needs to be a big focus on you,
not on the technology.
Use PowerPoint if you want but keep it to a minimum and make
sure you're not just the person pushing the buttons.
Why not get a bit clever at using the faithful old Flip
Chart, lots of professionals do.
This is what stops the audience in their tracks. This is
what makes them want to employ you; to accept what you're
proposing and make them want you to marry their son or
daughter. Couple this with some energy, enthusiasm and
emotion and you have the makings of a great public speaker.
Just think of our old friend Adolph Hitler, boy could he
move an audience to action. It's just too bad he was selling
something that wasn't to everyone's liking.
Give your presentation a bit of oomph and don't start
telling me '"I'm not that kind of person."
There's no need to go over the top but you're doing a
presentation to move people to action, not having a cosy
little chat in your front room.
That's the P's finished with so let's look at the Q's.
Decide when you're going to take them and tell people at the
start. In a short speech it's best to take questions at the
end. If you take them as you go then you may get waylaid
your timing will get knocked out.
Never 'never 'never finish with questions; far better to
ask for questions five or ten minutes before the end. Deal
with the questions and then summarise for a strong finish.
Too many presentations finish on questions and the whole
thing goes a bit flat.
When you're asked a question, repeat it to the whole
audience and thank the questioner. It keeps everyone
involved, it gives you time to think and it makes you look
so clever and in control.
Quit when you're ahead. Stick to the agreed time; if you're
asked to speak for twenty minutes, speak for nineteen and
the audience will love you for it. Remember, quality is not
One of the most famous speeches ever '"The Gettysburg
Address", by President Lincoln, was just over two minutes
Right, that's my cue to quit when I'm ahead. Public Speaking
will never be easy for most of us but we can all do it a
whole lot better.
About the Author
Alan Fairweather is the author of four ebooks in the "How
to get More Sales" series. Lots of practical actions you
can take to build your business and motivate your team.-