Public Speaking Tips
by Ron Aasen | on July 12, 2012
My name is Ron Aasen. I have been public speaking, in one form or another, for over 40 years. I have not had much formal training, but as you will see, my training has largely come from life experiences. I started my career in 1969 as a high school math teacher and basketball coach. I spent 11 years in the classroom. I have been in sales for over 30 years.
I remember the first days standing in front of an algebra class, coaching basketball, or speaking at pep rallys, class nights, church activities, athletic banquets, and so on. I remember being scared to death. It was hard to remember what I was going to say. My heart was running so fast, I could hardly catch up to it. Usually I could not remember much of what I said, after I finished and sat down. It was easy for me to see why so many people did not want any part of this thing called public speaking. Does this sound like something you have experienced?
As the years have passed, I no longer speak at the venues mentioned above. I have given four graduation commencement addresses, I have done somewhere around fifteen eulogys, I have had some words at retirement parties, weddings, wakes, family parties, and have also done many voice overs on DVD videos, that I produce.
When I was in college, taking speech class, I gave speeches on topics I knew very little about. The net result was I ended up reading the speech rather then presenting it. As the years have gone by, two things have happened. Number one is I have more experience to draw from, and number two is I speak from the heart. I speak about life lessons and the stories about people I know and love. This is very much the case when I am asked to deliver a eulogy. My father went to heaven on February 2, 2012. I spent 2 or 3 years thinking about what I wanted to say, when that day arrived. I did not keep any notes. I simply kept the memories in my mind. I found this to be very comforting. It kept my thoughts in a good place. There has been much to learn. I have found out that public speaking has done more for my confidence and self esteem then anything else I have experienced in my personal or professional life. I have also found out, as you might expect, that the more I speak the more comfortable I have become with my public speaking. There is no substitute for thorough preparation. My goal is to prepare so I don’t need notes, in my presentations.
There are many things to consider, when getting ready for a talk. The very first thing is to find out about your audience. We need to find out who they are, why are they here, and what are their expectations. We need to check out the venue, including the PA system, how will the audience be seated, and the position of the stage. We want to set the PA volume so when we pick it up, it is right there, rather then test it in front of everybody. There is nothing that will detract more from your opening then testing the mic in front of your audience.
There is an old adage that says start strong, have good content in the middle, and finish strong. I like to tell stories about the people in the audience. I like to add some humor, in a timely way. I have always felt that the more intimate the crowd setting is, the better. This plays well for good eye contact and voice inflection. I am always more comfortable and excited when I am closer to the audience. My mental outline I work from is simple. I am going to tell them what I am going to tell them and then tell them and then tell them what I told them. I discovered this technique back in my teaching days. When you refine it, it is powerful stuff!
I never use a podium and I try not to move side to side too much. I believe the use of a podium takes away the personal touch, I am striving for. I believe moving too much is a distraction. I have found that it is easy to move too much. I know that it is nervous energy. The best way to overcome these habits is to make them a priority and work on them. A conscious awareness will go a long ways. There will be no “ahs” in my presentations. This is not an option. It is manditory. “Ahs” serve as a filler. They add nothing to the speech. They are in the way and they can take an excellent speech and make it very average. This is also a nervous reaction, as well as inadequate preparation. I view this issue as a cardinal sin in public speaking.
When I am preparing the content for my presentation, I start by writing down the ideas I would like to talk about. I then brainstorm thoughts about each idea. I look for stories that fit the moment. I then work on the order in which I want to deliver them. I am always conscious of telling a story, adding some humor, sharing things that individuals have done, and certainly life lessons, which is the backbone of just about everything I want to share with an audience. It is very important that I never lose track of who I am speaking to and why. These ideas mentioned usually come naturally. That is because I have likely lived the moments I am talking about. But, it is also because I have over 40 years of experience doing public speaking.
With that being said, there is no better time, then the present. It is time to step our of your comfort zone. Expect it to be difficult. Expect it to get your heart pounding. But also expect it to be very exciting! There is not a better feeling, in life, then to believe that you can do anything you put your mind to. Public speaking touches all aspects of our lives. See you on the stage! I wish you well!