Upwardly Mobile

Dear Jewish Fairy Godmother:

I just got tapped by my boss to be the key speaker for a promo video
for our company. I’m terrified !!! He picked me because I don’t have
the normal fear of public speaking, but there’s a difference between
getting up in front of your colleagues and talking about this quarter’s
sales reports and trying to talk to people you can’t make eye contact
with, who may or may not give a flying %$^ about what you’re
pitching. Can you give me some public speaking tips that can translate
my ability to think on my feet with having to perform in front of a
camera? I do know to get a haircut and wear clothes that look
professional. But I’m talking about how to prep so I don’t stumble too
badly in public. A promotion could be on the line.

Upwardly Mobile

Dear Upwardly Mobile:

The first thing you need to do is know your material well. There’s no
magic bullet for any form of public speaking, but if you don’t know
what you’re talking about and/or you can’t say it in a way that sounds
convincing, the entire episode will fail. Start by questioning whoever’s
writing the script. Get it from them ASAP, as in now, today. Make sure
you have at least two weeks, preferably more, to practice your
delivery. Keep practicing until you can do this for your family or
colleagues and have them stay interested until the end.


Here’s how: Read the script out loud, repeat out loud. Say it to
yourself in a room as though you were speaking it to your audience. If
you hear your voice falter or you need to gasp for air, it’s a good clue
you’re going to need to edit the text. For people to listen to you and
believe you, you will need to sound comfortable with the words.
Comfortable people talk in contractions, not in formal language like
that you see on corporate brochures. So get relaxed with the actual
text, and, if necessary, get approval from whoever needs to sign off on
your changes. Then read it aloud onto your iPhone or some device
where you can play it back and listen with headphones. Get used to
the sound of your voice saying the words. It’s not so much a matter of
memorizing it (though I’m not against knowing it cold) as it is having
the talk become and feel like a natural part of you. Go for nice long
walks and listen a couple times each direction. Once you’ve got the
words down, add body language. Practice giving the talk in front of a
mirror. Look at your facial expressions. If you can get somebody to
videotape you it’s a mixed call about whether it’ll terrify you or
encourage you. But if you have a promotion riding on it, go full bore to
look fabulous and wise.