Public speaking

24 July 2020

Last year I took part in the event organized by Girl Geek Scotland. It is an amazing initiative that runs workshops and events to empower women working in tech, creativity, computing, enterprise, and related sectors in Scotland.

I was delighted to join this supportive community and took part in the series of workshops called Find your voice, which was aimed at helping women to improve their public speaking in a non-judgemental and supportive environment. Laura Westring (a vocal coach, writer and leadership communications consultant) shared her experience with the audience and based on her advice I wrote a speech that I presented later on in bigger groups and in the UX design community.

Public speaking is an essential part of any job in the modern world. So whether we like it or not – we just have to do it. We don’t have to be perfect at public speaking, we just have to do it. Only by doing it we can improve and reduce the fear.

Here is a quick overview of the tips Laura shared with us during her talk. It helped to boost my confidence, even though my public speaking is far from perfect.

10 speech writers rules, by Laura Westring:

  1. Start with the audience.
    First and the most important – you need to think about who you are talking to and analyze your audience. This will help you figure out how you can be valuable to them. Your speech to housewives who are interested in gardening and women who dedicated their lives to careers and have no children will have to be very different.
  2. Engage their curiosity
    The audience will challenge everything you say. Mental barriers go up when we share different from their point of view.
  3. Vary your evidence
    Combine a lot of evidence from different sources to better convince the audience.
  4. Connect to shared beliefs
    Find a common ground/goal rather than concentrating on differences.
  5. Know your point
    This gives you flexibility and adaptability.
  6. Keep things simple
    The simpler the sentence the better it is.
  7. Keep it short
    After 20 minutes people get tired, the brain filters the useful and misses the rest. The brain loves sequences, so it is better to break up the presentation into a few parts if it is longer than 20 minutes.
  8. Tell the right stories
    Great stories are character-driven, which makes the audience empathize. They also have a dramatic arc.
  9. You have already got their attention
    So use it for the CTA.
  10. Connect to the audience using a story and suspense
    It’s really difficult to keep people’s attention when you’re boring them with facts and figures. Why? Because there’s no suspense. There’s no promise of a revelation, so there’s no reason for them to keep listening. So don’t be surprised when no one is listening.

Laura also said – “Everyone will forget about your speech very quickly, so no need to worry.”

Finding the courage to admit, that you don’t know everything is going to help you, when you face the objections that may come from the audience.

I found this talk very helpful and realized that I don’t need to be entertaining to tell a good speech. Instead, I need to think about how the audience can benefit from my talk.

Exercise 1.
Start with a spider diagram (reconstruction of the audience). Where will they be? Who are they? What do they believe? What do they have in common?

Primary audience (who is in the room):

  • Demographics (ethnicity, age, gender, profession, subculture)
  • Attitudes (education, values, beliefs, anxieties, triggers)
  • Environment (venue, timing, staging, format, formality)

Secondary audience
Will there be streaming/press coverage/social media coverage?

Tertiary audience
Will your speech be broadcast, or the transcript published online, at a later date?

Exercise 2.
Monros motivation sequence is a technique for organizing persuasive speeches that inspire people to take action. It was developed in the mid-1930s by Alan H. Monroe at Purdue University.

There are a number of ways to grab attention:

  • Tell a dramatic story
  • Pose a question
  • Make a shocking statement
  • Use a shocking statisticThis can be a part of your introduction. You still need to establish your credibility, state your purpose, and let your audience know what to expect.

You need to convince your audience that there is a problem and maintain their attention. So state the problem clearly, and create a sense of urgency, dissonance, or discomfort. You can create this discomfort by clearly stating either the problem or the opportunity. This will encourage your audience members to seek a solution. 

  • Back up your statements with statistics.
  • Talk about the consequences of keeping things the same, not resolving the problem.
  • Show how the problem directly impacts your audience. Appeal to their basic instincts.

After you created the desire and urgency to solve the problem you need to propose your solution.

  • Introduce your solution. Try to keep it short, so you don’t lose the audience.
  • If your plan isn’t short – summarize it from time to time.
  • Use examples and stories to make it engaging and relatable.
  • Think about potential objections, and prove them wrong in your speech.

After this step, your audience needs to have a clear understanding of your plan and be wondering how they can benefit from it.

Now you need to show how they can benefit from your solution.

There are three techniques you can use for visualizing the future:

  • Positive Method: Describe their life in a positive light if your solution is adopted. 
  • Negative Method: Describe their life in a negative light if your solution isn’t adopted.
  • Contrast Method: Describe the negative picture first, and then introduce the positive picture.

Call to action
Tell them exactly what steps they need to take to achieve a favorable outcome. And encourage them to do so.

Laura Westring –
GirlGeekScotland –