Having trained hundreds of clients for difficult speaking situations like media interviews or angry shareholder meetings we can tell you there’s one constant – people are scared of standing up in front of strangers and talking about bad news.
It’s a bit surprising the first few times you see an individual who was lighting up the room with chatter and engagement prior to training’s start suddenly struggle to get a few sentences out when the camera turns on and the lights go up, but it quickly becomes clear that this is simply a part of the human condition for most.
Though we’ve shared this post before, we feel it’s worth sharing again in the hopes that even more readers are able to put these 3 useful tips on public speaking to use.
According to Psychology Today, people are more afraid of public speaking than death. I see you nodding your heads out there, and to be honest when I first started practicing the skill I felt the same. While it’s perfectly fine to sweat having to speak in public or to the press, if you’re the one tasked with representing your organization in a tough situation you can’t let it show.
Try these 3 tips on public speaking from Bernstein Crisis Management media training experts:
1/ Have a plan. Even the best speakers are going to have a bad time if they go into an interview and wing it. Know what you want your audience to come away remembering and how you’ll get them there. Remember they may not believe you on reputation alone and that you’ll need actual facts, figures, or outside opinions to support your points.
2/ Avoid repeating negatives. A classic trap those facing tough questions fall into is repeating the negative. If someone asks, “Why did your company choose to lay off 800 employees?”, the last thing you want to answer with is, “We chose to lay off 800 employees because…”. Consider how to rephrase answers to predictable questions before the interview so you’re ready.
3/ Remember compassion. This is the single element missing in most speakers during crisis. Unfortunately, tough times are when you need it most. Make sure people know you understand why they’re upset, scared, or angry. Until you can convince them you “get it” most audiences simply won’t listen, or even worse will actively rally against anything you say.
Perhaps the most important tip of all is that being good at delivering media interviews or public speaking takes PRACTICE! Grab a friend, colleague, family member, or even a handy phone and mirror to do some recording.
It will be some combination of embarrassing and scary to start, but that’s OK. Keep at it and you’ll quickly gain confidence in this much-needed (and often-overlooked) crisis management skill.
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