Public speaking doesn’t come naturally to everyone.
Public speaking appears to be one of those things where you either have a talent for or run away from like a zombie chasing after you in a horror movie, yet it’s one thing that almost every American will have to do.
Most of us have resigned ourselves to the fact that when it comes to public speaking there are two kinds of people in this world:
- People who give good speeches
- Everyone else
Yet, public speaking is still required of us. We may be at a meeting, preparing for a job interview, giving a presentation or even a toast at a best friend’s wedding.
The fact is, we have to talk to people to get things done.
“Stop Butterflies in Your Stomach” With Simplicity
The problem is that most of us are not comfortable with the prospect of talking to people (especially groups of people or under pressure). Even with the wealth of information on public speaking out there, we still feel the same “butterflies in our stomach”. Those butterflies in our stomach prevent us from giving powerful, dynamic speeches that really connect with our audience.
Instead, we fall into the trap of boring PowerPoints and even more boring “speech-by-reading-notecards”.
How do you break out of this pattern? More books, more videotapes, or more self-affirmations?
Try something more simple, common sense with a dash of helpful pointers.
Debbie Roth Fay (@bespeak), public speaking and presentation coach, offers those pointers along with other rather intuitive advice in her book, “Nail It: Create and Deliver Presentations that Connect, Compel, and Convince”. Her book promises to help readers improve their speech-giving abilities by focusing on the fundamentals we all take for granted.
Focus on the Basics, Then Add the Details
From the beginning of “Nail It”, Fay warns readers that her book offers advice they already know from practice. Fay’s hope is to bring reader back to the fundamentals, instead of getting caught up in the highly elaborate details of speeches. For most of us, this involves:
- Fear: How do I deal with the fear of speaking in front an audience?
- Audience: How do you connect with an audience that you may or may not know?
- Visual Aid: When should I use a visual aid and what is the best way to introduce it into my speech?
- Synthesis: How do I put all of these elements together into one good speech?
Unlike most books on giving speeches and presentations, Fay elected to go with a highly conversational style built on her experience. That conversational style is also combined with simplicity.
The best example comes in Chapter 2 of the book, “The Message”, which covers the essentials of audience assessment, structuring your speech, and delivery.
In Chapter 2, Fay covers persuasion. Most speech and presentation books would go on an elaborate discussion on various ways to persuade and convince your audience. This doesn’t occur in “Nail It”.
Fay introduces the topic with two paragraphs explaining persuasion, guides readers through an easy framework, and provides a real-life example of that framework. The result is a practical, straightforward framework that can be used for various kinds of speeches.
Chapter 2 is also an example of another feature of Fay’s book, giving small pieces of advice that can improve communication skills. One of the earliest cautions mentioned in Chapter 2 of the book is to eliminate jargon and babble, something every good speech book worth its salt will say. The difference is in several simple suggestion that Fay provides.
Examples of these suggestions include:
- Giving your speech to someone outside your industry or field. This will force you to create accessible ideas and decrease reliance on buzzwords.
- Breaking down the concept of your speech to an 8-year-old level.
- Using analogies from your audience’s point of reference.
This Advice Applies to Speaking in Any Public Setting
This focus on fundamentals is not limited to just business presentations or meetings. It can be applied to any speech given in a public setting. “Nail It’ includes brief, but helpful information, on how the fundamentals of speech (audience, message, and visual aids/supports, etc.) can be applied to elevator speeches, job interviews, and other encounters.
More information could be applied here (possibly in future books), but the principles are there for application.
The book is surprisingly lean on specifics on presentation, but heavier on fundamentals, which seems to be by design. The point is to determine what principles should you use when creating that presentation.
She focuses on simple, structured, and effective rather than technical, content-bloated, and speaker-focused. These principles are the same ones emphasized throughout the book, over and over again.
Conclusion: Good for Fundamentals, Advice or Refresher
“Nail It” is best recommended for a quick read by speakers of any kind who want to brush up on their fundamentals before a speech or in reviewing a speech. The book provides specific guidance in a very relaxed and intuitive manner that readers should appreciate. Because of the focus on fundamentals, it has applicability to a wide variety of speech-giving and presentation moments.
This book is based on an electronic copy of the book provided for reviewing purposes.