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Make Your Public Speaking Pass The “Waiting In Line” Test

On the heels of last week’s post regarding Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg’s average speaking skills, I realized there is a specific goal I’m always striving for and that I drive my presentation-skills clients toward. It’s simple, clear, and unmistakable: Are they waiting in line to meet you?

When I see a truly remarkable speaker, I will wait in line to meet that person, even if the line is long (and I am notorious for not rushing to be first in line). I am also terribly impatient–not a great quality, I’m afraid–so the speaker has to be really good for me to get in that line.

Think about your own experiences when you see a great speaker at, for example, a big industry event.

After the presentation, a line forms and for the remainder of the event, people recognize the speaker, approach him or her to introduce themselves, lavish praise and compliments, ask for advice and for permission to stay in contact. Overnight, the speaker goes from being unknown to industry stardom, respected and sought after. It’s like magic. Such is the power of brilliant platform skills.

Other than being a celebrity (or the offspring of one), there are few things that can catapult you to the top of your profession the way delivering a great speech can. So why don’t more people attain mastery? Because it takes a good deal of work to get to that point.

While speaking (forming thoughts and vocally communicating them) is something almost all people are capable of, doing so in front of large groups remains daunting.

So let’s take some of the mystery out of mastery:

  • Stage fright goes with the territory. Everyone gets it. Embrace it and make it work for you or it will work against you.
  • Preparation is the key to success. This is the most important and least utilized part of passing the “waiting-in-line” test. I will tell you it is the biggest obstacle for my clients, by far.
  • Nonverbal communication makes you believable. How you say what you say–the way you look, move, and sound–must be consistent with your verbal message. If it isn’t, people will believe the way you look and sound instead of what you say.
  • The best speakers also do not read from a script, nor do they stand behind a podium.

I’m going to go into detail on each one of these techniques in upcoming posts.

For now, however, start thinking about speakers you’ve enjoyed and what it is they do that compels you to wait in line. Then, make a decision to do what it takes to form a line of your own.

Copyright 2011 Ruth Sherman. All Rights Reserved.

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