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Ten Top Tips for Spokespeople

 

Purpose : What is the purpose of communicating with this audience? Is it to inform; entertain; persuade; motivate; inspire – what is it to do? In the case of analysts, arguably, it’s to inform.

 

Maximising the attention span of the audience : In the Public Speaking training delivered by CustomerClix, a diagram is shown. On the x axis (along the bottom) is time, so 0 minutes to 30 minutes, say. And on the y axis (on the left hand side), is attention span of the audience, going up from low to high. Typically an audience’s attention span is at its highest at the beginning and end of a presentation but will dip in the middle because people are thinking to themselves: What shall I make for supper tonight; Chelsea’s playing in the Premiership; or, if you’re American, maybe you’re thinking about the World Series! So the trick is to use some of the Tips stated here to help to maximise an audience's attention.

 

Structure : There’s different ways that a presentation or speech can be structured. For analysts, this structure is recommended: Begin with a corporate overview then drill down into the specifics of an announcement. The structure of the presentation should be where are we now; where do we want to be; how do we get there; how do we ensure arrival; then finish with a summary.

 

Speak to time : With the analyst community, we’re normally given 1 hour to brief them. So, craft a presentation that lasts c45 minutes, so allowing an extra c15 minutes for Q&A. Speaking to time shows respect for an audience.

 

Breathing : Singers are taught to breathe differently from how we breathe normally. It’s best to practise this technique standing up but basically, as we breathe in, the bottom of the tummy pushes right out – as far as it will go. This brings down the lungs so increasing the amount of oxygen getting into them. Then, as we expel air, though talking or singing, the bottom of the tummy comes in. This technique is called ‘control and release’ (release being when the tummy flops out). The technique is important for a number of reasons: Singers need to control their nerves when singing before an audience; they also need to have power in delivery. There will be times in all our lives when we may feel emotional or nervous - or maybe we’re just tired - which will trigger a tremble in the voice. But, if this breathing technique is used – so starting to speak when expelling air - immediately the voice will settle.

 

Introductions : During an analyst briefing session – if it is the first time that analysts and spokespeople have chatted - then ask the analysts to briefly introduce themselves, then for the spokespeople to do so. It is courteous and shows interest in others.

 

Intonation of voice : It is vitally important to use intonation of voice – putting emphasise on certain words. Because putting emphasise on particular words changes the sense of a sentence slightly for an audience. And varying the pitch and pace of delivery. Pitch in this instance means not speaking at one constant level during a presentation but to vary the pitch of delivery - going loud and soft - to draw an audience in. And varying the pace of delivery means that, during the course of delivering a presentation, going fast and slow, then fast and slow. Speaking fast can help to convey enthusiasm to an audience. Speaking slowly, in parts, can add emphasis to speech. So, if speaking for 10 minutes, say, the trick is to keep varying the pitch and pace of delivery. For example, observe how people in the public domain do this. So note how tv or radio presenters or broadcast journalists really use their voice. They are all given voice training.

 

Good use of words to communicate ideas : You don’t need to use a lot of words in Public Speaking. The trick when communicating with any audience is to keep it simple. But the cleverness comes in when deciding the type of words used to communicate and how they are crafted. Words should be immediately recognisable to an audience and bring alive the subject matter. Use onomatopoeic words – words that sound like the noise they describe – so bang, clash, pop, crank, plop, clank. Exchange one word for another, or plop in another word to bring alive the subject more. So for example, instead of saying black, say ebony. Instead of saying red say scarlet. Instead of saying white say icy white. This helps to convey imagery to an audience.

 

For examples; finding the human angle : As said, it is vitally important to maximise the attention span of the audience. One way to do this is to plop in ‘for examples’ that help to illustrate the facts being conveyed. And find the human angle. For example, how is a particular technology being used by humans? Are there examples of its use in the healthcare sector? Because people are interested in people.

 

Answering questions (ie keep calm; repeat the question; use a person’s name) : Repeat the question, to buy yourself thinking time, not everyone may have heard the question initially. Use the person’s name as this helps to convey a level of friendliness when answering. No matter how provocative the question, keep calm. I’d suggest not saying to an analyst ‘I don’t agree with you... ‘ but instead say ‘I see.’ Then identify areas of agreement, then perhaps follow on with ‘what we’re seeing in our marketplace is...’. This helps to take the sting out of things.

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