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  • Writer's pictureShari Rossow

Public Speaking, take it or leave it

Updated: Dec 13, 2021

Unlike baseball, there IS crying in business!

If I start to talk about anything emotional in front of an audience (no matter the size) I have a hard time not crying at some point.

I have tried all the tricks: drink water if you feel tears coming on; put your tongue on the roof of your mouth, quick count to 10, sing a song in your mind, think of someone in the audience naked…these do not work for me!

If you know you are going to share something where you may get emotional, its ok. It IS ok! I have been told “don’t cry, it will make you seem weak”. Or (my personal favorite), “it’s who you are, and it makes you real and relatable to the audience”. I have found if you share the same story a few times, it will get easier each time. Also, it is very helpful for me to have at least one person in the audience (or in the virtual meeting) I can look to for affirmation. I call this person my “head nodder”. They silently reassure me by nodding their head that they are with me and together we will get thru anything! This is always someone I trust. I will know ahead of time where they are sitting, or I will ask them to please have their video on so I can lock in on them should I need that support.

Don’t be anyone’s patsy! Lots of people do not like to speak in public, even if it’s their job to deliver messages publicly. If you do like speaking publicly, just be careful you aren’t speaking for someone else who is accountable. I remember a time I was asked to speak about a massive change to the organization I was not accountable for, I wasn’t the most knowledgeable about nor did I have answers to the myriad of questions I knew were going to be coming my way. The message would be delivered before all the details were worked out. I didn’t feel I was in a position at the time to say no so I went ahead and delivered the message 4 separate times to about 300 people in each session. The feedback wasn’t good, I got hammered for “not knowing more”. The message about the change didn’t land, the information shared changed numerous times as details continued to be worked thru. It was a mess.

From that experience forward, I won’t deliver a message that shouldn’t be mine to deliver. I have no problem partnering with the accountable party, but I won’t speak on your behalf simply because you don’t like speaking publicly, especially if the change isn’t going to make everyone happy!

Be yourself! I don’t care who you are, if you aren’t yourself when speaking, you will not come across as genuine. Scripts and speaking notes or reading from a prompter will not grab the audience unless what you are saying comes from YOU. If you can work with a writer, request the same person for each engagement so they can get to know your tone. They will write the way you speak. If this isn’t possible, do it yourself! It will land better with the audience, and you won’t sound like Max Headroom (some of you may need to google that one) when reading. If possible, try to memorize your lines, it’s your time to be Meryl Streep or Bradley Cooper!

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