Help! I’ve got to give a short speech at my company’s Holidays do and I’m no extrovert…

speeches,business,social,presentations,public speaking,weddings,occasions,writing,speakingDear HTWB Agony Columns

As a senior manager at my company I’ve been asked to say a few words at our Holidays party on behalf of “the workers…” I know what basic things I should say but hell – it’s the Holidays, so I know I should lighten up a bit. But that will be hard for me as I’m not what you’d
call a “showman.” What do you recommend?

Aaron from San Diego

Hi Aaron and thanks for your email.

Whatever you and your colleagues may think about what you should or shouldn’t say in your Holidays speech, forget it all. Just focus on what you, as a person, are like, and how you would normally communicate on an occasion like this.

The last thing you want to do is write yourself a speech that reads beautifully but when you perform it sounds like it was written for someone entirely different.

You say you’re not a “showman” and that’s really good news! The world is full of those people, but when it comes to real, sincere human beings it’s folks like you who really can make a difference when you speak publicly.

Whether you’re giving a TED talk or a speech at a family wedding, what’s most important of all is that you remain as yourself. Not some person you think you should be, someone you think your staff or employers want you to be, someone your mother thinks you should be – you are you and that’s by far the best basis on which to create your speech.

Script or not?
You don’t necessarily have to write yourself a script – I always do because it helps embed the content into my feeble little brain, but not everyone needs this! I rehearse from the script and then on the day I highlight key words and phrases and talk around the script rather than reading it. The benefit of being this controlled is that it will keep you from repeating yourself, jumping ahead to points you’re due to mention later, and also it will make sure you stay within the allotted time.

Well, a structure at least…
Whichever way you decide to plan and deliver your speech, it’s a very good idea to write out the bare bones of what you’re going to say so you can refer to it, whether on a sheet or two of paper or on cue cards. This is almost as good as a script with highlights and even if you don’t need to refer to it at all, you know it’s there in case you forget your place … not that hard to do, especially if you take questions midway through or there’s some other distraction.

speeches,business,social,presentations,public speaking,weddings,occasions,writing,Christmas,HolidaysDecide on the essentials you need to cover
Even if you’re giving a semi-social speech like yours, Aaron, there is bound to be an element of “must-haves” in it – e.g. who to thank, who to praise, who to congratulate for this or that. Start your structure by deciding where you need to make these points and allocate the slots accordingly. You should also note down the key points you’d like to make, in the right order.

Find out what other speakers are going to say
The last thing you want to do is find that someone has got up and spoken just before you and covered all the points you were going to make! Have an informal chat or exchange of emails/calls before the day with the other speakers to decide what each of you will be covering in broad terms.

Don’t try to be funny if you aren’t
Although a semi-social or social speech can gain a lot by being humorous, at least in places, don’t force yourself if you’re not comfortable with it. If you do tell a few jokes, make sure you tailor them to the audience and the occasion – more on how to do that in this article, and also in this article.

Be aware of the seasonal element but be considerate, too
I notice that you talk about “the Holidays” and not “Christmas,” and in our multi-cultural society that’s perfectly understandable. However I imagine there are many people in southern California who feel Christmas should be Christmas! I can’t really advise you on how to handle this one as I don’t know anything about the cultural mix at your company. But you do, so be aware of it in how you phrase things.

Be sincere and share something of yourself
As I mentioned above, what’s most important of all is to be yourself – not someone you think is the right fit for a speech-maker. So often you’ll listen to someone get up and talk in a pompous and formal way and you wonder what they’re on, because in real life they don’t speak anything like that. If you find it difficult to write down your speech as you would say it in real life, simply say it in real life into a voice recorder and transcribe it. All it needs then is a tidy-up so you can rehearse from it, and then either highlight the key points (see above) or bring it back down to bullet points and topic headings.

If you want some more detailed help with giving speeches of all types, you’ll like my eBook “Super Speeches: how to write and deliver them well.” You can buy this book here for $4.50, and this week I’m doing a Black Friday Special Offer for that book in a mini-library with three other eBooks about writing superbly for business ALL for just $4.50check that one out here, but remember the offer ends on Cyber Monday 2013.

Good luck with your speech and let us know how it goes!

photo credit: Brett Jordan via photopin cc