Written by Terry Wong
Last month I had the opportunity to speak at the OHS Leaders Summit - an assembly of Australia's leading safety minds. While I was greatly appreciative and honoured by the feedback I got post-speech, I quietly reminded people that I do this sort of stuff for a living. Consistent with the sharing nature of the Summit, I thought I would pen a couple of tips that I have learnt from excellent speakers or those things I have figured out the hard way.
1. Prep, prep and prep some more
Prepping the content of my speech starts about three months out from the event. At this point, not a huge amount of detail; it's usually no more than a theme or topic. What it does do however is plant the seed and allows my subconscious to go to work. About four weeks out I have mapped out my plan (usually in the form of a mind map, as this is the way my mind works best) and over the coming weeks I fill in the blanks, creating what is essentially a word-for-word script. In the week and days preceding, I am usually tweaking and fine-tuning the delivery so I don't have any wasted words.
On the day of, I am constantly referring to my script, just glancing and rehearsing it in my head so the transitions are slick and messages are clear. I make sure I spend time on stage beforehand. At the OHS Leaders Summit I was straight after lunch (a spot that most speakers loathe, but one I revel in) so I spent most of lunch walking the stage, getting comfortable with the room, allowing my body to acclimatise to the heat of the lights.
Then action time!
2. Pictures are worth a thousand words
The most commonly used tool in speeches is PowerPoint. It's an extremely powerful tool - when used well. My thinking when designing PowerPoint slides is governed by the less-is-more principle. I have a preference for a single, whole-slide image that creates an emotion linked to that portion of my speech, overlaid by a few choice words. So ditch the bullet-pointed, size 14, Verdana script that is so often used as a prompter for the presenter rather than the audience.
3. Be different
When you are speaking at a multi-day event where there is an assembly of 20-odd speakers, if you want to be memorable, then you need to dare to be different. Much of the feedback I got used words like engaging, interactive and entertaining, which I am proud of because this is the trajectory I aim my speeches at. More often than not, my chosen topic revolves around moving - so getting people up and moving definitely lends itself to being different amongst a sea of sitting-based presentations (ironic in a room full of safety professionals). Whatever your topic, I urge you to come up with your point of difference - whether it be an activity, pushing the audience out of their comfort zone, your jokes or having no Powerpoint slides.