How accountants can become exceptional speakers

Mark Lee talks to Alan Stevens about the skills required to become an exceptional speaker.

ML: Alan, you know a thing or two about the speaking business; what challenges do think accountants have to overcome before they can be considered exceptional speakers?

AS: Everyone faces similar challenges on the path to becoming exceptional. The most important is connecting with an audience through content and delivery style. That requires a detailed understanding of what the audience wants from you, and how they would like it delivered. You may need to use humour, evidence, references and stagecraft to achieve this. It’s also important to know what “exceptional” means. I suggest watching some of the great orators of past and present - Bill Clinton, Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, and many of the presenters at TED conferences.

ML: Many accountants find themselves in situations where they are required to speak to an audience. This might just be to a client’s board of directors, when they host an event or when they attend a formal networking group. They might also want to run seminars for clients and prospects. What are the overarching points they should bear in mind?

AS: As always, delivering benefit is the order of the day. It’s not about telling an audience what you know, or even what they want to hear. Your focus must be the overlap between your knowledge and their interests. In fact that’s all you should ever talk about. If you drone on about information that they don’t need to know, they will become bored. If you try to talk about a topic of great interest to them that you don’t really understand, they will see you as a fraud. It’s in that common ground that speeches work.

ML: In your book, The Exceptional Speaker, you suggest...

Continued...

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Comments

And having heard Alan in action...    1 thanks

carlreader | | Permalink

...and read his book, he knows his stuff.

Great tip about holding paper over a slide to see what you can remember. I tend to use pictures rather than words, because I'm not clever enough to read from a screen behind me and talk to an audience in front of me at the same time ;-)

Thanks for the article Mark! 

efficiencycoach's picture

highly recommend Alan...    1 thanks

efficiencycoach | | Permalink

I've met Alan in person quite a few times, read many of his books and also seen him speak. He is the role model that so many of us (including myself) can learn from. In fact, I have learnt so much stuff from Alan over the last 3 years.

If you have to deliver a message to a group of people whether at a client board meeting or a seminar, then get Alan's book The Exceptional Speaker.

rslosek's picture

Have a look at 20 Steps To A Brilliant Speaker    1 thanks

rslosek | | Permalink

Adding a third voice to the list, Alan is great here too. So is Mark ;)

I'm currently doing Alan's 20 Steps To A Brilliant Speaker online course. On Day 3 and already he has solved my biggest challenge for an upcoming conference speech I am making. I'm very relieved. I'm going no slides for that speaking engagement as I suspect my audience will have little attention span by last slot on a Friday at the end of the conference. Fewer things to go wrong!

dialm4accounts's picture

Just bought the book    1 thanks

dialm4accounts | | Permalink

I've just bought Alan's book on Kindle.  Thanks for the recommendations all!

M

stepurhan's picture

Awkward speech situations    1 thanks

stepurhan | | Permalink

Any tips on what to do if a joke that requires an audience response elicits only silence? Say, to take an entirely hypothetical example, deliberately miscounting when speaking to a roomful accountants at a tax conference in Brighton. :-)

David Winch's picture

Two Things Will Help, Carl    1 thanks

David Winch | | Permalink

carlreader wrote:

...I'm not clever enough to read from a screen behind me and talk to an audience in front of me at the same time...

Firstly, make sure the screen of the computer (laptop?) is facing you, the presenter, but doesn't block the audience's view of you.  Then you can read your slides without having to turn your back on your audience.

Secondly, get familiar with the use of PowerPoint's "Presenter View" mode.  This lets you see your current slide, speaker notes, previous and forthcoming slides, time of day and time since you started, but only shows your current slide to the audience.

And invest in a 'clicker' so you can move around but still change the slides.  Most also let you blank the screen (you can do this with the 'B' key on the keyboard too!) - A useful break for your audience in many instances.

Hope this helps.

David

Attending my local...    1 thanks

the_drookit_dug | | Permalink

... Toastmasters Club has been a great way for me to get speaking practice and invaluable feedback.

(It's also a good way to meet potential clients as a surprising number of business owners come along).

whoops!

carlreader | | Permalink

David Winch wrote:

carlreader wrote:

...I'm not clever enough to read from a screen behind me and talk to an audience in front of me at the same time...

Firstly, make sure the screen of the computer (laptop?) is facing you, the presenter, but doesn't block the audience's view of you.  Then you can read your slides without having to turn your back on your audience.

Secondly, get familiar with the use of PowerPoint's "Presenter View" mode.  This lets you see your current slide, speaker notes, previous and forthcoming slides, time of day and time since you started, but only shows your current slide to the audience.

And invest in a 'clicker' so you can move around but still change the slides.  Most also let you blank the screen (you can do this with the 'B' key on the keyboard too!) - A useful break for your audience in many instances.

Hope this helps.

David

 

Sorry David, I was being sarcastic. I'd never go on stage if I'm so unprepared that I have to read something word for word (even if I was able to multitask!)

 

:-)