Throwing a successful dinner party involves planning and preparation. There is a lot to consider, including who to invite, dietary requirements, music and, of course, the meal itself. Not only do you need to plan the menu and buy the food, you need to have the skills to cook and present it. The same applies to preparing a great speech.
It’s easy to forget to pay attention to the various aspects of designing, organising and preparing to deliver a great speech and put lots of effort into fancy – and sometimes not-so-fancy – slides.
Just as you wouldn’t invite people for dinner and then on their arrival fling open the fridge to see what’s inside to cook and serve, neither should you just turn up and deliver an ill-prepared presentation. As you wouldn’t serve a fabulous roast for your vegetarian friends, neither should you fail to consider the specific needs of the audience for your speech.
In business, having impact is paramount to success. The business leaders who ask me to work with them to improve their speaking are mostly missing some of the elements of the “dinner party” approach, so to start we work with my 6P formula for a great speech.
Why have the dinner party?
Purpose of the speech: Why this topic, why this audience, why you, why now? Think about why you are speaking, what issue you will address and what solution, benefit or value your talk may offer. What do you want the audience to think, do or feel as a result of your presentation?
Who is invited and what do you know about them?
Plan: What issue might your audience face or opportunity might they seek? Consider what they may already know, what they might be curious about, need to hear, or indeed anything to avoid. Identify the practical elements – the time you have, the size of audience and room, technicalities like projection facilities and more.
Designing the menu
Prepare the speech: Design your “pre-dinner fizz” – setting the scene before you speak, then your “starter” – a strong, captivating introduction. Create your “main” – the focal point of your talk, with its “accompaniments” – stories, facts, and visuals, and then the “dessert” – your memorable finish. Ensure there will be a smooth flow between elements – it’s essential for a great speech.
Mastering the dish
Practice: Rehearsal is the secret ingredient, and the thing that so many people in business do very little of. Just as you develop a signature dish from cooking it again and again, the more you practise your talk the more you hone your pace, storytelling, voice, delivery, master your nerves and improve your confidence.
Serving the meal
Perform: The hard work’s been done. Now it’s time to relax and enjoy the experience. Use all the preparation and practice to now be able to engage and interact with your audience. Be yourself, focus on them and let it flow. Smile, make eye contact and pause often to allow the audience to digest each point.
Clearing the dishes
Post speech: It’s worth remembering to congratulate yourself on a job well done! Reflect on what went well and where you can improve further next time. Do any follow-up needed to continue your relationship with your audience such as offers, meetings, further information, promises or calls to action.
So the dinner party starts with the guests – and your speech with the audience. Know who your guests – or audience – are, including their needs, interests and motivations for joining you. Be determined to meet their needs with your culinary – or speaking – skills. Plan, prepare and practise and you’ll find you may well enjoy your talk as much as that dinner party! Bon appetite!
Glen Savage is a member of Toastmasters International, a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. Headquartered in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, the organisation’s membership exceeds 332,000 in more than 15,400 clubs in 135 countries.
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