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...