Public Speaking – What Makes One Speaker Stand Out Above Another

Public speaking skills are equally important for personal and professional reasons. Here’s a brief tale of two speeches:

I recently had an experience that was like sitting in a sauna with 250 other people except with no pool or other way to escape the heat.

Am I talking about a tropical vacation destination? Hardly. I’m talking about open house night at my daughters’ school where there is no air conditioning and despite the calendar switching to September, summer decided to hang on with a vengeance with a near 100-degree day.

My daughters’ school held their annual open house and it was HOT.

There we were: parents, teachers, and assistants, along with the one administrator, our new principal, all sitting on those gawd-awful metal chairs with parents eager to jump up and go visit our kids’ classrooms. And we were HOT.

The price of admission to meet our kids’ teachers and check out their daytime home away from home? Sitting through the speeches. Did I mention no air conditioning?

I personally was excited about hearing what our school’s new principal had to say. He’s young, enthusiastic, and has tons of exuberance. More importantly, over the summer within speaking confidence his first couple weeks of work, he pulled our little private school out of the dark ages finally implementing much-needed technology into the fabric of our school. He started a Facebook page as a way to connect with parents, established a standard email address system for all staff at the school (previously teachers had to supply their own personal email addresses to parents), and implemented a way for parents to see our kids’ grades and performance through a private online portal. This guy is going to be good. And I was happily anticipating his speech.

Typically at our open houses there are speeches from several folks starting with the principal and then volunteers in charge of various groups like our PTA, athletics, enrollment, etc. But this year it was just the new principal and the PTA president. So far so good.

Here’s where the tale of two speeches begins.

The principal was clearly prepared. He provided handouts, had a PowerPoint including an inspirational video, and despite the oppressive heat in the school gym, was wearing a suit and tie. He was out to make a great first impression.

Here’s what else he did right:

  • He began the meeting right on time, therefore respecting the parents and everyone who had made it to the meeting on time.
  • His opening remarks were warm and engaging.
  • He then set the stage for the rest of his presentation by including a preview to his speech: sharing his plan for the rest of his talk.
  • Then he followed his plan. It was easy for us parents to follow along with his mission statement, the technological improvements for better communication, and his ideas about instilling life lessons of respect, achievement and others into our kids throughout the school year.
  • He supplied handouts that followed his plan, which made easier for the audience to see where we were in the presentation and to follow along.

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