How To Destroy Our Reputation In One Minute
It is quite a big space. I am sitting there as a hushed silence now fills the room. All eyes are fixed forward, the presenter tears open the envelope and announces the award winner. Applause fills the air as the proud selectee stands up, smiles, nods and navigates between the tables and chairs up to the podium. Receiving the prize, they pose for the photographer, turn and begin to move hesitantly towards the mike. At this point, their personal and organisational brands now begin to disintegrate.
They have that deer-in-the-headlights glazed look in the eye, as they contemplate a crowded room full of searching, quizzical faces. Their throat suddenly seems "Sahara parched", their words struggle to get out, their legs feel weak, their mind is a whiteout.
What does emerge from their mouths are pathetic Ums and Ahs. There are also particularly strained and embarrassing silences as they obviously struggle, thinking what they want to say. Their speech is incoherent, nervous, unconvincing and clearly killing them. In one minute they have gone from hero to zero in front of their industry peers. Some cowards even run from the mike, declaring they will not take the opportunity to make any comment. Their general demeanor screams "FEAR – get me out of here!"
This is a one minute acceptance speech. An opportunity to promote your organization, promote yourself, thank the troops, etc. Why are so many people so poorly prepared to represent their organization in a public setting, where there is no excuse and every likelihood, that you will have to get up and speak?
One speaker though, took the podium radiating confidence, stood up straight, and spoke with energy and clarity. It was short – maybe two minutes maximum, but it sounded so professional and competent. So it can be done – what is the difference?
The most telling point was the majority of speakers had obviously done zero preparation and this competent speaker had worked out what needed to be said. The majority had not considered what they might say, until they swung their torso around towards the podium mike. Now, that is not a lot of preparation time!
Actually, a short one or two minute speech is probably the most difficult talk we will ever give. It is so very brief, we have to really plan it well. We also need to rehearse what we are going to say beforehand. Don’t ramble on and don’t practice on your audience!
There are only a few points we can make when forced to be so brief, so we have to select the most powerful and dump the rest - there is no time for dross. As we say it has to be "all killer, no filler". We need to be projecting massive confidence, even if we are dying from nerves on the inside. Importantly, only we know that is the case. Choose not to show it to the crowd, keep that information to yourself.
We should hit the first word we speak hard, to eliminate any hesitancy. With that same energy, we should maintain our voice power, to project to everyone in the room that we deserve to be up here getting this award. Remember we all judge your entire organization on you. If you rock, we think your organisation is great. If you are a dud, we assume everyone down at your shop is equally hopeless.
When speaking to the audience, our eyes should be singling out specific individuals at each table to speak to directly, as if we were having a friendly chat over the backyard fence. We are speaking to them for about six seconds. More than six seconds becomes intrusive and less doesn’t allow for any engagement with that person. We then switch our gaze to another table across the room, repeat the process and start engaging someone sitting there. In a one minute speech we can engage ten tables in a room, which with around 8-10 guests at a table, is pretty good coverage.
We also won’t waste our chance in the limelight by applying a vice like grip on the lectern. Instead we are going to free our hands up for gestures. We will accentuate particular thoughts and points, with the use of our hands. We will definitely slip in a pause after a key point, to really let it sink in. We will add extra voice strength to selected words, to give them added emphasis. We will use animation in our face to drive the key message hard.
If there is even the remotest chance you will have to get up and speak, be prepared, be "A Game" ready, be organized and be great. Don’t snatch defeat from the jaws of victory on the awards dais. Make it a triumph instead.