From experience, I know many business owners find it challenging to always find the right words for the right moment.

In this article, I’d like to share some thoughts to help you consider what to say when it matters, whether that’s a conversation with a customer or a supplier, contributing to a team meeting, giving a performance review, speaking at an event or something similar.

The words we choose to use when we speak provide an outcome, hopefully the one we were aiming for when we first decided to say something. They will bring inspiration and joy to some but generate questions or even pain for others. Either way, what you say matters.

I was recently asked to speak at a networking breakfast. It was at an event for an organisation from which I was stepping away from after many years of devoted work. It really got me thinking about what I would say after such a long time and to people who were still in the organisation.

There are three golden rules to public speaking; Know your audience, know your material, know your passion, but after reflection, I believe you can work from these nine considerations:

1. Take a moment to think before you speak

One of the most common reasons we say the wrong things is because we don’t take the time to think, prepare and plan before we speak. Have you ever found yourself rambling on to try and get back to your thread? Taking a moment to stop, breathe and think about what your point is should help clarify your words.

2. Have you received any guidance?

If you’ve been asked to speak at a meeting or event, then the organiser may have an idea about what would be engaging for the audience. If you’re talking with a member of your own team, have you taken guidance from an expert such as HR, finance etc to help you get your message out and in a supportive manner?

3. Think about your key messages and what you want to say

Don’t lose focus on the reason you’re speaking and what you need to say, the messages you want to share, your purpose for talking. Why should your audience care what you’re saying? It’s OK to get emotional, passionate, animated etc!

4. Consider the audience you’re speaking to

Choosing the right words often depends on who it is you’re talking to. You would probably use a different range of vocabulary for different audiences. What do they want or need to hear from you? How would they digest it most easily?

5. Does what you say have value?

Are you saying something of purpose or do you just like hearing the sound of your voice?! Don’t just speak for the sake of speaking. Consider the value of what you plan to say. What will your audience take away that they might remember and/or pass on to someone else?

6. Consider what’s in the news

Be sensitive to the environment and recent news. What’s top of mind for many people is something they’ve read in the news or commentary on social media. You need to be aware of the common topics of current conversation as these themes could potentially hijack your words if you mention them.

7. Take a moment to reflect back on your words

Plan a time to review what you propose to say. Reflect back on your thoughts after a while, not immediately, as you will often see another angle, option or phrase. Using reflection on the day, you can ask your audience to reflect back on what you just said or mentioned earlier in your speech.

8. Practise!

Research has shown that your body language and non-verbal communication matters more than what you say or how you say it. In this case proper practise prevents poor performance. Get comfortable with your content and that will reduce your nerves and relax you when it’s your turn in the spotlight.

9. Be empathetic, accept imperfection and be you

Be mindful, considerate and empathetic of who you are talking to. Be you, show your personality, experience, knowledge and expertise is fit for purpose. Be inspired by, but don’t attempt to mimic someone else. Use your vocabulary, your style as this will generate the trust and respect that aids all communication. At the same time accept that what you say won’t be perfect in every moment, so be kind to yourself in preparation, in delivery and afterwards.

I do hope those nine considerations have shown you a way that you can speak in public confidently. If I can help in any other way, then let’s have a conversation. I shall leave you with these wise words, from John Ford, “You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.”

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