No one is born a great speaker. Not to sound cliché-ish, but it takes work and dedication to earn the adjective “great” in the public speaking world.
Even high profile people like New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg have found that out. At the beginning of his term in office shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, he gave his speeches little attention. He didn’t work with his speechwriters, didn’t rehearse and was notorious for mispronouncing names.
But now in his third term, the mayor has “found his voice” behind the lectern. He works on his speeches in advance – sometimes writing them out in longhand himself. Now that he is looking to his legacy as mayor, Bloomberg marks up drafts of speeches produced by his team of writers.
And he has discovered that the right speech in the right setting can have more impact than the daily press conferences he hosts.
Mayor Bloomberg is not alone among the ranks of leaders and executives who – over time — have acquired an appreciation for the power of public speaking. It’s easy to give speeches short shrift, especially when you have a hectic schedule and are not completely comfortable in front of an audience.
If you’re lucky enough to have a speechwriter, as Bloomberg is, here are some tips to help you get the most out of your scribe:
Meet with your speechwriter regularly
Before each speech, schedule a meeting with your speechwriter and discuss the event, the topic the host has suggested and what your key messages will be. Kick around ideas for stories you can tell – stories from your own experience.
Review the speech drafts
Once you have a draft in hand, read it through and pencil in any changes. Consider the order of the content, the opening and the closing and any quotes or additional information you want to add. Work with your speechwriter on any subsequent drafts until the speech is in the shape you want.
Rehearse in front of your speechwriter and any other staff members whose opinions you trust. Rehearse until you know the speech well enough that you don’t have to read it.
Becoming a good – or even a great – public speaker is a process, as Mayor Bloomberg has found out. Even if you don’t have a speechwriter, collaborate on your speeches with colleagues and rehearse with your spouse or significant other. Be patient and stick with it. Your speeches and your impact will improve exponentially over time.