With very few exceptions, people will tell you that speaking in public terrifies them. Even when it’s to deliver good news! Make it your job to communicate about a negative issue, and suddenly the anxiety cranks up to an 11. While there is no magic formula to remove every element of stress from something like a press conference or shareholder meeting, below are a few tips we’ve found to be helpful for trainees over the years.
Try these 3 tips on public speaking from Bernstein Crisis Management media training experts:
- Have a plan. Even the best speakers are going to have a bad time if they go into an interview and wing it. Know what you want your audience to come away remembering and how you’ll get them there. Remember they may not believe you on reputation alone and that you’ll need actual facts, figures, or outside opinions to support your points.
- Avoid repeating negatives. A classic trap those facing tough questions fall into is repeating the negative. If someone asks, “Why did your company choose to lay off 800 employees?”, the last thing you want to answer with is, “We chose to lay off 800 employees because…”. Consider how to rephrase answers to predictable questions before the interview so you’re ready.
- Remember compassion. This is the single element missing in most speakers during crisis. Unfortunately, tough times are when you need it most. Make sure people know you understand why they’re upset, scared, or angry. Until you can convince them you “get it” most audiences simply won’t listen, or even worse will actively rally against anything you say.
Perhaps the most important tip of all is that being good at delivering media interviews or public speaking takes PRACTICE! Grab a friend, colleague, family member, or even a handy phone and mirror to do some recording. It will be some combination of embarrassing and scary to start, but that’s OK. Keep at it and you’ll quickly gain confidence in this much-needed (and often-overlooked) crisis management skill.
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