By Candace Moody
You may not think public speaking skills are essential to your business. After all, why does a manufacturer or retail store owner need to be an orator? But, great public speaking is more than knowing how to give a speech at the podium: It’s the right combination of style and substance that makes your speech— and your business— memorable. The principles of good public speaking also help you make an impression on prospects in casual conversation and may even increase your success.
Since its inception in 1924, Toastmasters International has been known as the world leader in helping people become more competent and comfortable in front of an audience. The organization’s Web site (www.toastmasters.org) offers several tips for getting over your fear of public speaking, and what to say once you’ve conquered the fear. The section on “Finding your voice” is essentially a guide to having something interesting to say. The questions the Web site suggests you ask yourself are designed to connect with what matters to you—the secret to successful speaking in any venue. (See sidebar below.)
Toastmasters teaches its members that most public speaking falls into three major categories: speaking to inform, speaking to entertain, and speaking to persuade. Boring speakers are usually dull because they rely solely on information. A skilled speaker blends entertainment with information and develops a strong point of view. This strong point of view is what becomes persuasive for your audience (including an audience of one.)
A dull speech includes facts and figures (for instance) about levels of phosphate pollution in the river. An interesting presentation convinces us that we must change our ways today so the St. Johns River won’t die in our lifetime.
Having something interesting to say almost always involves taking a stand on an issue. Many people connect taking stands on issues with controversy, so they shy away from voicing opinions. It’s one of the reasons that small talk stays small— no one cares to break the ice with a personal point of view, even though a strong point of view is one of the things that make an idea— or a business— “sticky.”
Stickiness is a term coined by author Malcolm Gladwell in The Tipping Point, a book that describes how ideas catch on and spread in society. The idea of stickiness was also taken up by brothers Chip and Dan Heath in their book, Made to Stick: Why Some Ideas Survive and Others Die, published in 2006.
In Made to Stick, Heath and Heath developed a formula for what makes an idea sticky: In a Time Magazine interview in 2006, the pair says, “The key to creating traction is to take your idea, whatever it may be, and present it as a Simple, Unexpected, Concrete, Credible, Emotional Story.” (for the record, they also apologized for the slightly hokey “SUCCESS” acronym.)
Stickiness is what makes great advertising great: Combine simplicity and unexpectedness in one sentence and you get worldclass taglines such as the original FedEx slogan, “When it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight” or Nike’s “Just Do It.”
So how can you up the stickiness factor in your everyday speech? One way to start is to develop your one-line positioning statement for your company. One woman business owner—a publicist— stood up at a networking meeting and introduced her company in this manner: “We make our clients famous.”
How could you change your company’s position? Instead of talking about the what of your business, talk about the why. Instead of introducing yourself as “a family-owned restaurant with a full catering menu located on the southside,” try “serving home cooking so good you’ll check the kitchen to see if we hired your mom.”
Add persuasion to your every day speech with your strong point of view. You wouldn’t be in business if you weren’t passionate about your product or company. Tell people what you think— tell them why you’re in business. “Because everyone deserves great design.” “Exercise should be fun.” “Your lawn wants to be beautiful.”
You’ll be memorable and your business will start growing.
Candace Moody is vice president of communications at WorkSource Development (www.worksourcefl.com), which provides workforce training and re-employment services in the greater Jacksonville area.
How can you become stickier?
To become “stickier” think about these questions, adapted from “Finding Your Voice” from Toastmasters International. Their answers can make you—and your business—stick in the minds of your customers.
· How can you use the defining moments of your life? Are there any special lessons or experiences that profoundly affected you? For example: learning how to ride a bike, moving to a different city, taking on a new job, becoming a parent.
· What subjects and issues are you certain about? The test of this is, how easily can you be convinced to change your mind? Have you discovered the best way to motivate a child to read? To make flowers grow? To create world peace? Then share your expertise with the world!
· What makes you laugh? Share your favorite sources of humor.
· What makes you angry? Share how you would change the world for the better if you could.
· What are you struggling with right now? Speak about what captures your attention at the moment. If you have “speaker’s block”, speak about your inability to come up with a speech topic.