Three weeks ago I had the honour of being bridesmaid to my dear friend Stephanie. In my enthusiasm leading up to the wedding, I offered to write and deliver a speech.
As the countdown began I jotted down stories, ideas, anecdotes and memories in the hope that it would all come together. However, the more I reviewed my ‘wedding speech ideas log’, the more I realised I was at risk of subjecting the audience to a 45-minute disjointed mess of Jess’ memories of the couple.
I quickly realised that whilst I stand in front of groups of people all day, my core skill set lies in facilitating group processes, rather than presenting to a wide-eyed, expectant audience.
Fortunately for me the world of work and life outside work collided with perfect timing!
In May, Alex (Associated Consultant Psychologist at Left Field) and I were engaged to deliver our new leadership 3-part series: Talk Like TED. The first workshop, ‘Learn the Steps’, walks participants through strategies for structuring content, controlling voice and body during delivery, and feeling confident in thinking on your feet.
I went home inspired! I took immediate action to pull my chaotic attempt at speech writing into a clear structure. In particular, I spent time considering a relevant creative link to tie the themes of my speech together while maintaining engagement and interest of the audience.
The second workshop, ‘Dress Rehearsal’, was delivered two weeks later and was designed to allow participants to practice their presentation in a ‘testing lab’ style environment and receive live feedback. This session also proved extremely helpful in my quest to deliver the ultimate wedding speech, as I was able to learn from observing the participants to understand what really works and what traps to avoid.
The third and final workshop, ‘Opening Night’, was scheduled with flawless timing…it was one day prior to my Opening Night! This session provided the group with an opportunity to formally deliver their presentation and celebrate the time and effort devoted crafting their message…just as I was preparing to deliver my speech the following night!
My Opening Night. I was surprisingly nervous as I took the microphone and stepped up to the lectern. I felt in very unfamiliar territory reading from a script in front of a very glamorous and bubbly audience.
Yet the speech seemed to flow smoothly…the crowd laughed at the right times and sighed or welled up at the appropriate heart-felt comment. I managed to actually breath properly and make eye contact without losing my place on the script. I even cued the DJ in at the right moment to close my speech “Only You” by the Platters. Talk Like TED in action!
This week I was reflecting on this moment, in which I felt a true sense of accomplishment at achieving my goal. It was humbling to see the positive impact of learning a skill set and finding a meaningful opportunity to apply it in the real world.
I will leave you with my top tips for executing a presentation:
1. Know Your Message: The difference between an average presentation and a memorable presentation, is the speaker’s ability to clearly communicate their message to the audience. In many situations presenters over-complicate the narrative or provide too much detail, which leaves audience members confused and overwhelmed. Before presenting be clear on the following:
Topic (e.g., bullying in schools)
+ Purpose (persuade the audience to recognise the impact)
+ Action (vote for a new anti-bullying policy to be implemented).
2. Think Different: Use a “creative link”, this can be a recent news item, joke or personal story to link together your message. This creates a personal connection to the audience. For inspiration, I recommend looking through children’s books or entertainment news!
3. Own the Space: The power of body language is incredible! Posture, movement, breathing, eye contact…all of these contribute much more value to your presentation than the content itself! Amy Cuddy’s research on the ‘Power Pose’ is an excellent source of inspiration and practical tips for owning the space: https://www.ted.com/talks/amy_cuddy_your_body_language_shapes_who_you_are?language=en
Next time the opportunity presents itself, whether at a wedding, conference or team meeting, I invite you to create a sparkle in people’s eyes and inspire action by crafting and delivering a captivating presentation!
“I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
- Jessica Fraser - Senior Consultant Psychologist -