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How to Nail Every Speech and Interview

How to Nail Every Speech and Interview

In honor of Sunday’s Academy Awards, our resident public speaking experts offer advice on what makes a great speech. Yesterday, Video Production Manager Ann Hadfield, a veteran TV reporter and producer, offered her tips on how to achieve – and more importantly, project – confidence. Today, we hear from Albers vice president and certified speech judge, Dani Hatfield, about the key things every person giving a speech or interview should know and do. Then, on Monday, Ann and Dani will share their recap on the best and worst speeches of the evening.

When the Best Supporting Actor, traditionally the first person to receive an award at the Oscars ceremony, gives his acceptance speech on Sunday night, the audience is going to notice something a little different. Instead of hearing him rattle off a long roll call of people to thank, they will see the names scroll on the screen. This, ostensibly, will allow him – and all the other winners that night – to make his 45-second speech more entertaining and meaningful.

“The thank you scroll will help them to stay on track,” says Dani Hatfield, vice president of Albers and a certified speech judge. “In business, when we have the opportunity to give a presentation or interview, we don’t always have that luxury.”

Dani agrees with Ann Hadfield that the key to ensuring a meaningful presentation is practice, but not memorization. “Any speech you give, you want it to come off as extemporaneous. It should never sound too rehearsed.”

Dani says she often counsels students to practice as if they were giving the speech to their mom – the style should be respectful, but conversational. However, when it comes to choosing a person to critique your presentation, you will probably want someone more objective than your mother. “When I give speech or media training with clients, I do run-throughs of the presentation or interview and video tape them. Then I review it with the person and give them a full review of both the good and the bad, no holding back,” she laughs. “But in all seriousness, practicing with an honest and experienced critic is the best way to get completely comfortable with the presentation and message points.”

After all that training, it can be easy to feel like you’re giving a speech on auto-pilot. To combat this (and prepare for any curveballs that might come your way), Dani recommends practicing a few times in a different order, i.e. starting with the conclusion, followed by message point B, then the introduction, etc. It won’t make sense, of course, but it is yet another way of getting comfortable with your topic. Each time you practice, Dani encourages keeping in mind pitch, timing and different ways to emphasize what you’re saying such as repetition. If possible, she adds, it’s always helpful to rehearse once or twice in the place where you will be speaking.

“For most of us, being comfortable in front of a large audience doesn’t come naturally,” she says. “But it’s always going to go better if you’re well prepared.

Dani’s Dos and Don’ts For Speeches and Interviews

Do prepare message points in advance.
Do gesture, when applicable.
Do maintain good eye contact, throughout.
Do pay attention to posture.
Do practice, of course. Over and over and in many different ways.

Don’t try to be funny if you aren’t naturally a funny person or the topic isn’t funny.
Don’t use jargon. Pretend you’re talking to your mom.
Don’t memorize verbatim, but do know exactly what you want to say.
Don’t be self-effacing. As Dani puts it, “I would rather hear someone present themselves in a very polished way. That’s what you expect from an Oscar winner or business leader.”
Don’t be too nervous. You were invited to speak because you are an expert on the topic.

For more information about public speaking and media training, please contact Gina Pappas.