Stand and Deliver!, written by expert speaking coach Ian Nichol, was a fun read. Be warned: it’s long. It’s the quotes that make it longer than perhaps it needs to be, but they are there to illustrate good practice when it comes to giving speeches.
The book sets out simple steps to successful public speaking. It starts with key principles like getting your attitude right, then moves into what you need to do to adequately prepare. Finally, it talks about key techniques which is a section on tricks of the trade.
The book was written in a conversational style that makes it easy to read. There are a lot of examples, including from the author’s own many presentations – some more successful than others. It’s incredibly practical and the main message for me was that Nichol is trying to increase your confidence at public speaking.
For me, I often speak to an audience of experts, and Nichol has useful advice on that. He writes:
What happens if you are speaking to an audience that knows the subject better than you? In this situation, it can be easy to lose all your confidence and give a woeful performance. The key is to treat your talk as a team effort and work with the experts in the room, rather than see them as a challenge to your ego. The presence of a specialist, knowledgeable audience gives you the chance to lead a debate of high quality and so create a thoroughly compelling session.
He gives some more tips on how to speak to an audience of experts:
• Treat them as very knowledgeable.
• Be prepared to compliment and indulge them where appropriate, so long as you don’t belittle your own skills in the process.
• Actively invite their comments (and even their corrections), their experiences and their examples on the subject.
• Never try to wing it
• Never pretend that your knowledge is greater than it is.
Other tips I took away from this book:
• Sacrifice all unnecessary detail: you cannot convey more than a handful of points so make them the primary message
• Don’t overestimate what the audience already knows (although this conflicts somewhat with the point about speaking to experts above. I suppose the key is knowing your audience)
• Use plenty of examples
And my favourite tip, which I will let the author tell you in his own words:
Ensure that embarrassing personal material does not intrude on your presentation. Computers have their individual concerns and interests that do not necessarily align happily with those of the presenter. An executive was doing a PowerPoint presentation to his management committee. Microsoft Outlook was still open. In the middle of the talk, a window came up informing him of a new message. The heading for all to read was: ‘RE: job application for the post of Marketing Manager’. Sadly, it was not for an internal appointment within the company. Try to avoid that sort of thing.
by Elizabeth Harrin
Ian Nichol entered a public speaking competition at the age of thirteen and has been hooked ever since. He gained first class honours in Classics at Cambridge, where his studies in oratory and rhetoric gave further impetus to his speaking career.
Ian was a tax and training partner at the leading business advisory firm PricewaterhouseCoopers. He ended his career there in the specialist group which developed and ran training courses for clients in finance and management development. Ian went on to run his own training and management development business, focusing on leadership skills and executive coaching. He has also in his time been a commissioner of both the Criminal Cases Review Commission and the Press Complaints Commission.
This varied background means that Ian has gained extensive experience of successful speaking: as a business speaker, a careers lecturer, a technical trainer in tax and finance, a TV and radio performer, and a humorous after dinner entertainer. In addition to his speaking work, he has coached individuals to give well-received presentations ranging from highly technical seminars to keynote speeches.
Ian lives in Warwickshire with his wife, Val. In his spare time he plays Scrabble, keeps fit and avoids gardening. He has previously been the author and editor of successful publications about tax: this is his first book on public speaking.
Please feel free to get in touch with Ian at [email protected]