One Simple Rule of Thumb for Courtroom/Public Speaking

Recently I spent an hour with a client wanting a review of the presentation he’s giving for an office all-staff meeting. As I requested, he sent me the focus of his message in advance so I could get a sense of the content. Although it was fairly technical, I knew there were ways he could engage his listeners so they didn’t slump into their seats while pulling out their smartphones.

Since his intention was to motivate the listeners into taking certain steps toward behavior changes, he knew he had to help them focus on themselves instead of being distracted by how he was presenting the message and then quickly tune out.

I helped my client talk through how he was going to frame his message, both with intro and conclusion, and then I helped him launch into the “performance” mode to test out what he had. He was pushing himself to do it “right”, and repeatedly two things happened that I’ve seen from stage performers who are unrehearsed:

He talked too fast.
He stumbled over words.

This is a focus problem. He was watching himself – trying to make sure he remembered what to say, so to prove that he did, he talked too fast. Then, once he saw his weaknesses, he started fumbling over his words.

Below the surface, the bigger problem is lack of practice, especially with the opening and closing of the presentation. Like the opening argument and closing argument, these must be solid. They are the foundation of the message a speaker springs from. If the foundation is shaky, weak or last-minute, it won’t let the audience’s good impression of you survive.

One Simple Rule of Thumb for Courtroom/Public Speaking:


What do you practice?
1. After you have your message down, get on your feet and speak it outloud. You will hear whether the written words smoothly translate into spoken words. Simply tweak the phrasing that you stumble over.

2. The opening and closing must be solid. Like bread around a sandwich, they hold the message together, keeping it from being sloppy. Rehearse these two parts of your message until you can say them word for word, meaningfully, slowly.

3. Run through the key points you want your audience to take away.

4. Practice how you move from each key point to the next.

5. Practice your movement in the room. Tie it to your transitions from point to point.

6. Practice where you will focus throughout your delivery.

When speakers apply practice to the messages they give, they shift from dreading the preparation to getting excited about it.  My client’s behaviors shifted from tentative and frustrated to eager and controlled. He felt differently about his articulation, his focus and his impact. Practice made all the difference.

It’s the only rule of thumb you need for performing well. Practice.

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On July 21st, 2011, posted in: courtroom, lawyers, presence, public speaking by
One Response to One Simple Rule of Thumb for Courtroom/Public Speaking
  1. Time to face the music armed with this great ifonrmation.

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