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The holidays are here and that means holiday parties. Great! We've worked hard all year and we deserve to eat our favorite foods, drink a tad too much and maybe say or do a few things we'll regret next year. Or not. It's really easy to forget that the folks we're celebrating with over the buffet and bar are the ones we'll be back to work with come January 2nd.
One great opportunity arises at this time of year: A chance to make a short speech offering a few well-chosen words of peace on earth, goodwill toward men and women. Business parties are a chance to get to know associates and colleagues on a whole 'nother level. The trick is to say just enough to keep the holiday spirit going but not go on so long that folks start looking longingly at the drink table.
People who aren't comfortable speaking in public have dozens of reasons why they can't or won't do it. For some it's a really debilitating fear; for others it's just laziness or a reluctance to work that little bit harder to achieve something that doesn't come easily. The fact is that no matter what your fear, it's possible to overcome it. The question to ask is, "How would my life be improved, if I weren't afraid?"
Let's imagine a few typical scenarios.
In this world of advancing technology where texting, emailing and keeping up with social media are the communication methods of choice for practically all of us, you'd think the need to contact each other the old fashioned way, face-to-face, would be rapidly becoming obsolete. What a surprise to find that when sharing information, people still want to look each other in the eye and hear a real human voice. That explains why many people are discovering they really need to know the art of public speaking.
Even though a blast email and a slide program may be more efficient ways of sharing information with large numbers of people, the need to know how to stand in front of the room and speak to people in groups is exploding like a mushroom cloud. Why is this?
Recently I needed to ask for telephone help to access an account I hadn't used in awhile. I'd forgotten the entry sequence and just wanted a quick, two sentence reminder: "First you do this, then you do that. That's all there is to it." Unfortunately, that's not what I got.
For close to 15 agonizing minutes I sat there biting my nails and listening to the person on the other end of the phone repeat the same information at least twice even though I got it the first time. That was only the beginning.
You're an expert on classical literature who's been asked to join a panel on why 19th century women authors are relevant and influential to 21st century readers. Your premise is that these women of another age wrote about heroines who would fit quite naturally into our modern era with perhaps just a change of clothes and a chance to go to law school. You've prepared carefully, your bullet points are all in a row, and you've even planned ahead for any objections to your conclusions. All systems are go.
You're the next to last speaker, so you listen carefully to what the other panellists have to say. To your horror, one of the speakers ahead of you has chosen a similar point of view, even used the same examples, and said almost exactly what you were going to say! What are you going to do? You have just a few minutes to completely revamp your remarks so that you don't sound like a mimic, a trained parrot, or an unprepared copycat riding the coattails of the speaker who came before.
It doesn't seem to matter how well some folks know their subject, they still feel that writing down their thoughts ahead of time into a coherent message that an audience will appreciate is just too hard. Or maybe they just don't want to put in the time or effort.
What's the big deal about writing a speech? The truth is it's a skill you've been learning since you first went to school, even if you never took a speech class.