Learn more about communication with this collection
How to make rational decisions
The role of biases in decision-making
The impact of social norms on decision-making
I have invested countless hours becoming an expert in my field. This is essential because nearly all public speaking gigs include time for questions. Many speakers aren’t prepared for the random, wide-ranging questions they get and so Q&A can be awkward. I make sure that I know my subject so well I can answer almost every question. If I don’t know the answer, I say, “I don’t know” instead of guessing or estimating.
My logistical skills are lacking, so two brilliant women cross every T and dot every I for me, and I’m atrocious at salary negotiation, so I have a savvy manager who handles that part with grace and professionalism. Don’t assume that you can do an hour of reading on the internet and suddenly become as good at social media as someone with years of experience. Find an expert and treat them well. Also, once you hire an expert, let them do their job. If you hire a PR professional and you get an email asking you to do a podcast interview, forward it to your PR rep. Don’t interfere with their work.
Your slide presentation should be mostly pictures, no complicated graphs or charts, and easily read from the back of a ballroom.
Talk about the mistakes that have led you to insight. Otherwise, your talk can come across as 45 minutes of unsolicited advice and, take it from a conversational expert, no one likes unsolicited advice.
Be on time or early, deliver what you promised, and ask lots of questions to make sure you understand what’s needed. Dress professionally and be kind to everyone you meet. That’s good advice for life, I think, but especially for situations in which you might be at a conference in Tampa and not realize that the person in flip flops getting lemonade is actually the president of the company.
No matter what your subject matter, your talk should have a beginning, a middle, and an end. Human beings learn best through stories and most of our history was passed on verbally. Reading is a recent innovation. So, write a script that is meant to be heard and not read. No long sentences with subordinate clauses; no excessive adjectives and technical terms. That’s not how people talk and it shouldn’t be how you speak.
Fly in the night before. I used to try to arrive in the morning if I had an evening engagement, so that I could keep the trip as short as possible. That strategy quickly becomes disastrous though, because of bad weather, late planes, and missed connections. Just fly in the night before and get a full night’s sleep. You want to be rested and relaxed when you’re speaking to large groups of people. On the same note, don’t check bags. No need to take unnecessary chances like that.
If you are being hired as an expert, you’re expected to stay current on the newest research on your subject, as well as cultural trends. Keep notebooks (digital or otherwise) where you collect notes from articles, books, and studies. Update your content constantly. You may give a great speech to an organization, but if you don’t write new material, you can only work for them once.
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