By: Kevin Shumway | Public Speaking Instructor | Communication and Journalism
Whether you are in sales, accounting, advertising, or public relations, public speaking is going to play an important role in how you do business. Luckily for you, I have some tips that will help in the process of speaking effectively. Usually humans are highly ego-centric and expect instant gratification, especially Americans. To illustrate my point, Dale Carnegie in his book How to Win Friends and Influence People (1998) said, “Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound in any language.” So let’s take these facts and let them work to your advantage.
Believe it or not, in a job interview, interviewers are focused on their agenda. So, take your agenda and make it their agenda. Here in the public speaking world, we call this being audience centered. I know what you are saying, “Easier said than done", Right? Some things to keep in mind are the audience’s interests and expectations. If you have the chance, do some research before diving in to your next job interview.
Research, although tedious, can work wonders. You would be amazed at the things people post on social media and the results you get from a simple google search. The more information you can get, the better. In a job interview, use small-talk effectively. Watch how your interviewer automatically finds you more interesting when you share the same affinity for the Chicago Cubs and their race to the world series (even if you don’t care about the Chicago Cubs). Look at trends of the company. Are they progressive, green, traditional, do they have a casual Friday? These factors should influence the approach you take into that interview.
Now that you have their attention, make sure that you adhere to their expectations. Remember that Cubs example I gave earlier? If your interview is scheduled for 20 minutes, DO NOT TAKE 15 MINUTES FOR SMALL TALK. In the business world, we like thinks short, concise and to the point. That means if you can explain something in ten words or one-hundred, use ten.
Be conscientious about the way you look. Steven and Susan Bebee, public speaking scholars, in their book A Concise Public Speaking Handbook emphasized that, “There is considerable evidence that your personal appearance affects how your audience will respond to you and your message… Appropriate wardrobe varies depending on climate, custom, culture, and audience expectations.” This is where that research will come in handy. A good rule of thumb is to be dressed slightly more formal than the person who is interviewing you. Don’t wear shorts and sandals to a meeting with Google, but I wouldn’t wear a tuxedo either. If you are worried about your wardrobe choice, ask your mentor, or a respected professional.
Finally, I will stress evaluating the language you use. It is important that when you speak, people understand you. Focus on diction, enunciation, and articulation. Do not “aks” questions or talk about how you “ackchally” worked with Thomas Ricketts (Chicago Cubs owner). Another important aspect for speech is the variety with which you speak. Try to incorporate changes in pitch, rate, and inflection. No one wants to listen to someone speak monotone, or too fast. A quick way to discredit yourself is by sounding unprofessional.
The next time you have to communicate professionally, remember, humans are highly ego-centric and expect instant gratification. As long as you talk about them, and make it quick and informational, you will find that people genuinely care about what you have to offer.