Public Speaking Advice from Great Performers

After covering writing advice from great authors, I wanted to compile a list of the best speaking advice from great public speakers. Each of these tips can be used to help create effective compliance training, but is also just great advice for any speaking engagement you may have. 

The more you sweat in advance, the less you’ll have to sweat once you appear on stage. Research your topic thoroughly.
— George Plimpton, legendary editor of the Paris Review

I can't overstate how important it is to practice your presentation beforehand. Even if you think you know the material from creating the presentation materials, make sure to practice by standing and talking through the entire presentation as though the audience is already in the room. 

Being unprepared will make you nervous. An audience can sense immediately when a speaker is not confident about the material they're delivering. Once that happens, your message will be useless and you'll have wasted everyone's time in an attempt to save yourself some time by skipping the prep work. 

The single most important skill you must have to lead is the ability to tell your own story
— Bo Eason, actor and playwright

As we've discussed before, storytelling is critical to connecting with the audience. And there's no story you know better than your own. If you have an even remotely applicable personal story, tell it. You will form an instant connection with your audience, and they'll look at you as a member of the team (instead of some high and mighty compliance person delivering the law from on high - okay maybe that was a bit harsh).

Inspiration can’t be performed. It’s an audience response to authenticity, courage, selfless work, and genuine wisdom.
— Chris Anderson, TED Talks Curator

Inspiration is one of the most powerful things an audience can experience. It's also exceedingly rare in a world of template compliance training modules delivered online or through over-worked legal/compliance departments. Ultimately, it is up to you to deliver an authentic, passionate message which your audience can identify with. Provide your audience with a benefit - make their jobs easier. Don't just take up their time with a paper compliance program.  

The best speakers are those who make their words sound spontaneous even if memorized. I’ve found it’s best to learn a speech point by point, not word for word.
— George Plimpton

The best speeches sound spontaneous. Even though I've found it extremely helpful to prepare speech scripts by writing them word for word, it's helpful to practice by memorizing points rather than words. This way you won't get stuck in front of the audience trying to remember the next word...

If you have an important point to make, don’t try to be subtle or clever. Use a pile driver. Hit the point once. Then come back and hit it again. Then hit it a third time — a tremendous whack.
— Winston Churchill

Often we try to hit every topic once (and only once) during compliance training. That way, we think, the audience won't get bored of hearing the same thing over and over. While it is true that there's a fine balance, don't be afraid to hit on an important point more than once. In fact, you're doing your audience a disservice if you give everything equal weight. Companies have different risks and risk tolerances. Make sure to give more time to your company's major risks. 

Simple and to the point is always the best way to get your point across
— Guy Kawasaki

Guy, the guy (ed. note: sorry, we had to) who created the simple 10/20/30 rule for PowerPoint presentations has some great advice for difficult legal training. Never say in many words what you can say with few. And again, avoid compliance jargon and legalese. You will immediately lose your audience. 

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