‘U’ is for Underrate
Once in a while, someone will try and convince you to make a ‘small’ speech. You may hear things like: “Nothing major. You’ll be done in less than 15 minutes.”
“You’ll just be talking to a bunch of kids.”
“There’s nothing to fear, it’s a small group of people.”
Anytime you hear such comments, sit up and take notice. Don’t be fooled into underrating any public speaking engagement. This chapter will tell you exactly why.
A small speech needs a big effort
Do you have any idea how much time goes into producing a one minute radio commercial? Anything between one to four hours. That is between 60 and 240 times the duration of the final product because of the amount of work needed to make the ad sound perfect.
The same principle applies to public speaking. For a ‘small’ speech to work well, a lot of hard work is required in terms of audience research, your topic, designing your speech and rehearsing it.
Some coaches recommend that you practice your talk ten times before you actually deliver it. It is clear that you would be making a serious mistake in underrating a public speaking opportunity just because you’re supposed to give a ‘small’ speech.
Kids are tough audiences
The younger the audience, the more prepared you have to be. Young people tend to have shorter attention spans than adults and so your challenge is to keep them tuned in to your message while you contend with modern day distractions like mobile phones and video games.
You can actually acknowledge these diversions and incorporate them into your talk. If you are talking to a group of teenagers about youth development, ask them to take out their phones and Google ‘youth empowerment’. You will definitely get more buy-in than ordering them to turn their mobile devices off.
Be prepared for feedback at the end of your talk and know that it may not all be flattering. Just because your audience is mainly made up of young people doesn’t give you the leeway to underestimate them.
Small crowd, same hard work
Should your level of preparation be proportionate to the size of your audience? Not at all. Every public speaking event is in actual fact a public performance. You are the one up on the stage. You are responsible for getting your message into the minds of your audience. You will only succeed if you control the process right from when you have been introduced through to when you get off the stage.
That means you have to look right because appearances do count and you have to deliver a message that feels right to the listeners. Don’t play down the event because the audience is small. It just could turn out to be a small audience of powerful decision makers.
You downplay any speaking assignment at your own risk. Every speaking opportunity, whether it’s a ten minute pep talk for pupils or a presentation to fifteen managers requires research and preparation. Your best insurance against underrating your assignment is to over-prepare.