Yesterday I taught the first session of a 9 week (spread over 6 months due to my school and life schedule) public speaking class.
We had a good time, and ended early, as good classes do. I’m pleased with how the class is starting out, and looking forward to giving lecture #1 on Friday again, with much less prep time.
It was a basic overview of where we want to go, and three key notes around public speaking: Fear, COLD SOAP, and the secret trick to being good that nobody wants to know.
Fear: There’s very little chance that anyone could die from public speaking. It’s happened only twice that I know of in recorded history. Eutychus, who died from falling out a window when he fell asleep during one of Paul’s sermons (Acts 20, and he was then brought back to life), and William Henry Harrison. Harrison, the 8th President, gave the longest inaugural speech in history, refusing to wear a coat, and died 100 days later from pneumonia he contracted after the speech. I wouldn’t recommend following his example. I’m sure I’ll write more on fear and public speaking in the future.
COLD SOAP: I promised previously to tell you about COLD SOAP previously. This is a simple grid for making sure you’re considering important issues when putting together a talk. COLD stands for Content, Order, Language and Delivery. SOAP is Subject, Occasion, Audience, Presenter. When working on a speech, you need to consider the Occasion and the Audience, for example, in choosing your Language. You wouldn’t want to give the exact same speech (even if most of the general aim and content is the same) to an audience of engineers and one of people who had no knowledge of engineering. A good speaker considers all eight of those criteria together in putting together a first-rate talk. I may write more on this later.
The secret trick: There’s two, actually, that will set you apart from other speakers. The first is practice. Practice, practice, practice. If you rehearse your talk multiple times before you give it in public, it will be greatly improved for the practice. And most people feel silly doing that so they don’t. Those who practice stand apart in speaking quality. The second is be simple. One point. Every talk you give, whether 5 minutes or 50, should have one singular point woven in that everything relates to. You will address a group of distracted and distractable people. Don’t try to say more, say less. The simpler your point, the better you can get it across and the better you’ll hold everyone’s attention. Trust me…don’t overreach. That’s the mistake of rookies. The best speakers have a single point. And you get it. And hopefully even remember it after they’re done.
As a bonus, here’s some tips from a great article with 40+ tips on improving at public speaking (link to the article for the rest included):
1. Don’t be a “speaker”. Be an expert who speaks. Speakers are a “nice to have” but experts are a necessity
2. The power is not the point – slides are there as navigation points, not to be the content
3. If everything you say is on your slides, you’ve rendered yourself useless. Speak, don’t read.
So does anyone have any experiences, good or bad, with public speaking you’d like to share?