To note or not to note

Everyone tasked with speaking in public has the same choice to make: to make the speech with or without notes. The opinion of some people is that using notes is unprofessional. But is it?

In 1914 a young Winston Churchill stood to speak in the House of Commons. Churchill had memorised his speech, but part-way through he lost his way. He repeated his previous sentence, hoping that would jog his memory. It didn’t. Churchill had to sit down, humiliated. He would go on to make many impressive speeches, all of them with the aid of notes.
So if using notes was good enough for Winston Churchill, it should be fine for all of us to use them. Right?
According to professional keynote speaker Bob Ferguson, a three-time Toastmasters champion, the answer is yes.
And no.

“It all depends on WHY you are giving the speech in the first place,” says Bob. “At one end of the public speaking spectrum there are Professional Speakers. Speaking is their job. At the other end there are business speakers. Speaking is part of their job.”

Bob identifies two major differences between a Professional Speaker and a Business Speaker:

1. Content

Professional Speakers may have three, perhaps four speeches. Some have just one. The Professional Speaker will customise a speech from their arsenal for each engagement, but essentially they are repeating the same performance again and again.

Business Speakers stand up in front of audiences in a variety of circumstances, perhaps covering project updates or sales presentations or team briefings. They’re dealing with new material almost every time they make a presentation.

2. Preparation Time

When Professional Speakers develop their keynote speech(es) they spend a lot of time crafting both the content and the performance. They allow themselves time for research, rehearsal and trial runs. They’ll organise feedback from friendly audiences and hone their product.

That’s not the world the Business Speaker inhabits. Pretty much each speech focuses on new subject matter and will often be delivered at short notice.

Professional Speakers and Business Speakers may seem to be doing the same thing, but only in the way that Usain Bolt and Mo Farah seem to be doing the same thing.

For a Business Speaker, using notes makes sense. Their audience isn’t there to be dazzled by performance, they’re there for information. And if notes help the Business Speaker deliver that information effectively, what does it matter?

But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about how we use notes.

Bob Ferguson says, “When I have to use notes I either use small flesh-pink card (so the audience doesn’t see the flash of white on my hand as it moves) or I use a speech map (rather like a mind map) which I put on a music stand set at under waist height. That way I can see my aide memoir clearly but it doesn’t interfere with my engagement or eye contact with the audience. I also put small props on my music stand so I’m not retreating to the back corners of the stage, where the lecterns normally are, to retrieve my visual aids.”

For those still feeling a little sniffy about the use of notes, consider this: What do these iconic speeches have in common?

• John F Kennedy’s Man to the Moon speech
• Martin Luther King’s I have a dream speech
• Winston Churchill’s We will fight them on the beaches speech

They were all made behind a lectern … with notes!

If you would like help in becoming more confident with your speeches then we have courses planned across the UK and we can also come to your business.

How to Pitch for New Business

Attracting and impressing new clients is essential to any business looking to grow. Ambitious companies are all vying for new business alongside you, and having an edge over your competitors through an exceptional presentation can mean the difference between a contract and a handshake goodbye.

However, pitching for new business is one of the most intense and nerve-wracking parts of business today. As tensions run high, you can start to feel the pressure. This is because your body releases cortisol, the stress hormone, which increases your heart rate and makes you sweat. Cortisol can limit your creativity and leave you incapable of interacting with the room. This means you’re in danger of failing to nail the pitch and win that all-important contract. So how can you stop this happening and ensure that your pitch is successful?

Preparation is Paramount

An effective presentation comes after much preparation. Your number one priority is to prepare properly. You need to research the company that you are meeting, figure out their strengths and weaknesses. Make sure that you aren’t just selling them your idea; you are selling them the perfect solution – designed specifically for their company.

If you’ve gone over all eventualities, then you won’t have anything to be anxious about. Practice some ‘what if?’ scenarios, such as a PowerPoint failure, to make sure that you can deal with any scenario and have a back-up plan.

Telling your Story

All the pressure of the pitch can make you want to get it over and done with as quickly as possible. Professional public speakers recommend speaking 10% slower than you normally would. Remember that people have got to take in everything that you’re saying. Communicate with confidence by speaking in a lively, engaging way. Leave natural pauses for everyone to digest what you’re saying.
Be yourself, as people will quickly see through a façade. Don’t rely on jargon and buzzwords; instead, speak from the heart using the type of language that you use every day. Remember to leave time at the end for questions.

Consider your Body Language

Everything has an effect on how you come across to your potential new clients, not just what you say. According to researcher Albert Mehrabian, the words you use and your tone of your voice accounts for just 45% of communication with over 55% of communication deriving subconsciously from your body language.

In your meeting, slouching, frowning, and hunching all make you look smaller and less impressive. People are looking for emotional cues when they listen to you. Instead of acting uncomfortable, you must exude confidence. Stand up straight with your shoulders back, meet people’s eyes when you speak, and smile.

Richard Branson has some excellent advice for people pitching for new clients. He says: ‘Enthusiasm is contagious.’ If you can share your genuine excitement about working with a new client, you’ll no doubt impress them.

Perfect your pitch with a little help from Ripley Training

At Ripley, we offer a number of courses to help you nail your presentation, teaching you everything from effective planning and preparation, to how to Q&A sessions to help you engage with those on the other side of the table in a more effective manner. From basic courses to advanced presentation skills, we’re here to help you with your pitch and presentation techniques.

We run courses across the country to help you hone your voice and perfect your pitch. Give us a call on 01423-861-122 or fill in our short contact form.