A Crash Course in Learning Public Speaking Skills
As I transitioned from engineer to Prague tour guide I realised that public speaking is not a natural gift although many make it appear like that. I believe that it comes from having complete confidence in yourself, your knowledge and your delivery. I have found through experience that public speakers fall into two categories, both confident, both sure of themselves, both delivered with passion BUT, in two different ways.
This seems to be where the subject material is fired at you relentlessly. There is no interaction, there is no thought for the questions and/or interests of the presentee. It’s simply the speaker talking about what he/she wants to talk about.
Here the public speaker interacts with the audience, gauges response and adapts delivery to improve the experience of the presentee via better engagement.
I decided that I wanted to be a TWO-WAY person but that’s just the start. What about the knowledge and the delivery. As somebody with a 30 year career in engineering (with no public speaking experience) could I embrace public speaking in a completely different area? I was fortunate to have had a hobby since 1996 to learn about the city of Prague. I developed a popular website and then took it further by introducing my own walking tours. Curiously, I had to fall back onto my engineering and management roles to give me the confidence to do it right.
Once upon a time I used to remind myself of the job I was doing and what needed to captured by using the simple acronym P.R.O.D.U.C.T. (Procedures, Risk and Resources, Ownership and Organisation, Documentation, Users, Commercial, Training and Testing).
Now I use P.R.A.G.U.E.R to give me the confidence to be proficient at public speaking and to take on anything that comes along.
P. PRODUCT and PROCESS
R. ROUTE and RISK
E. EDUCATE and ENTERTAIN
PRODUCT and PROCESS
The tour is my PRODUCT, it must be planned, executed and delivered in controlled time so therefore must follow a PROCESS which ends in a successful delivery. I have complete confidence in my knowledge of each stage. A tour is not just a walkabout. It requires timing associated with specific knowledge and the ability to overcome any issues so that the tour is delivered to the satisfaction of the clients while maintaining control over the PROCESS.
ROUTE and RISK
There is never a set route or a standard client, therefore the ROUTE must work according to the situation related to either the wishes of the client or the actual status of the city so these must be captured within the PROCESS. A RISK is anything that may impact on the PROCESS and hence threaten the delivery of the PRODUCT.
No two tours are ever the same. Specific client requirements or an active RISK will require ADAPTATION of some kind. From a minor route adaption right up to an injury that prevents delivery of the PRODUCT. I can plan for an array of unexpected events and mitigate against them but ultimately it’s my knowledge and skill that must resolve them and still stay within the PROCESS.
Ultimately the client is not following me but walking with me. My role is to explain the history and workings of the city both modern and ancient. I must GUIDE you, not lead you.
I am a TWO-WAY public speaker. I am intuitive and UNDERSTAND the client by observing their reaction and interest level. This helps me to quickly change the content or delivery method to align with the client’s needs.
EDUCATE and ENTERTAIN
Primarily I’m here to increase the clients knowledge of the city so the PRODUCT is there to EDUCATE the client. This could be done in a plain manner or in a fun and entertaining manner. Both are accurate but I choose wherever possible to EDUCATE and ENTERTAIN simultaneously.
A PROCESS must be considered as a living thing. It cannot be left alone for too long before external factors, if left uncaptured, will negatively impact on it and by extension, affect the delivery of the PRODUCT. By constantly reviewing the way that I present existing tours I hope to maintain high standards. I expect that by the end of a tour my PRODUCT has been delivered, that my clients have been informed, entertained, amazed and challenged with thought-provoking memorable content.
I am not a natural public speaker but if I break it down into it’s parts then I can overcome the fears that I once had. I don’t do all the “imagine people naked” stuff. I establish an informal relationship as soon as possible and this allows me to talk to strangers as friends with both passion and humour. If I can do it then anybody can do it so aim high, accept you’ll have to work hard, accept that it will positively improve your life and you may just find that you enjoy it.