One Minute Before Your Elevator Speech

One Minute Before Your Elevator Speech
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We all want to know how to give the best presentation we possibly can, when it comes time for an elevator speech.

What they don't teach you in Business SchoolWhen you speak, do you talk with authenticity and conviction?  Do you come across with an enthusiasm that others might describe as… Droopy?

True, Droopy is hilarious, but not exactly inspirational. How can we overcome the natural response to public speaking: fear, withdrawal, and nervousness?  I mean, have you experienced that fear-based shutdown, in front of a group?

Let me tell you:  I have.  That statement may surprise you, but it’s true – and that memory, though long ago in my past, serves as a constant reminder of how I fight the fear every time I speak to groups.  (I couldn’t do what I do without that memory, and it’s not something I’m proud of. But that’s why I’m committed to helping others to make sure they never make the same mistakes I have!)

Here are some quick ideas on how to prepare before your elevator speech

  1. SMILE: most people think of an elevator speech (or any speech) as something worse than visiting the dentist.  Surprise your listener; enjoy what you are saying.  A simple smile can make it easier to listen. Surprises are disarming (in a good way) and it makes it easy to listen to what comes next.
  2. BREATHE , TAKE YOUR TIME:  Even if you are on a deadline, even if time is of the essence, even if fear is gripping your lungs… You still have the ability to take a breath, and take your time. Gather your thoughts, and it will help you to avoid the dreaded “Um”.  As John Wooden said, “Be Quick…But Don’t Hurry”.  Get your bearings, and then – get going!
  3. ENERGIZE YOUR PRESENTATION: If you want to be compelling (and, by the way, all elevator pitches are persuasive) you need to make sure that you care about your subject.  Otherwise, how do you expect your listener to care? Remember, your audience has never heard this before. Start strong, and you never know what good things might happen once you start speaking.

What has helped you, just before a presentation? Where do you place your attention, and why?


Chris Westfall is an award-winning MBA instructor at the Business Leadership Center at SMU’s Cox School of Business.

Headline image courtesy of Laughing Squid, used under creative commons license.  Some rights reserved.

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3 comments
deleted_2698155_BruceSallan1
deleted_2698155_BruceSallan1

Great tips. I often give myself those - with the exception of smiling - each time I'm about to broadcast my radio show. Also, I'd add - again not for radio - really look into the eyes of those you speak to. At a larger gathering, just gaze at different people around the room. 

admin
admin

Ellen - LOVE that tip! Great way to keep you "in the moment", and then starting the first moment with eye contact. Excellent advice

Ellen Bremen
Ellen Bremen

Great tips and a couple of additions from a public speaking prof (who was also a 7-year award-winning Toastmaster and admitted freak lover of public speaking): To combat nervousness, try "cognitive reciting"--say everything you see out loud as soon as nervousness hits. Maybe on the drive over, when "symptoms" start, say "There's a Honda. It's a purple Accord. Its license plate is XYZ123." Doing this keeps you cognitively in the here and now, rather than in the future ("What if I?" or the past i.e., fear of a previously bad speaking feeling/experience recurring). Second tip? Make eye contact from the first moment. Many speakers feel that this will make them more nervous. Seeing listeners looking directly at you, likely smiling, will feel more connecting. Otherwise, a speaker looks up from notes and is hit by a flood of eyes--and that can feel uncomfortable. Much luck! Ellen Bremen, M.A. @chattyprof http://chattyprof.blogspot.com

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