The Institute - Session #4 - The Fellows Tackle Public Speaking and Communication

By Hilary Morefield

For our forth Insti­tute ses­sion, the group delved head first into pub­lic speak­ing strate­gies and com­mu­ni­ca­tion skills. The Fel­lows worked together to share small sto­ries with each other and con­struct them into larger pieces to nar­rate their per­sonal mis­sions. At the end of the day, each of the fel­lows pre­sented a short speech in front of the entire group, fac­ing the chal­lenges of speak­ing to inspire as well as deal­ing with con­flict res­o­lu­tion in pub­lic presentation.

Here are a few of the take-​away lessons from the session:

Watch for what you like

Some­times it can feel dif­fi­cult to con­nect with cer­tain audi­ences. In any kind of speak­ing sce­nario, when we watch for what we like with whom we are speak­ing, it gen­er­ates a shift in our body and mind­set that allows us to nat­u­rally mimic the lis­tener and be more in-​tune. By increas­ing our exter­nal aware­ness, we can more eas­ily access those we are speak­ing to and shift how oth­ers per­ceive us as well.

Check in with your listener

As speak­ers, we have a ten­dency to attribute cer­tain things as facts about our audi­ence (that per­son is bored/​hates me/​is falling asleep). Doing a sim­ple check in with your audi­ence or lis­tener can help turn around these assump­tions into actual facts. Check ins range from a quick “how are you?” or “how are you feel­ing today?” to “do you get this?” or “does this res­onate with you?” Who knows. You might be sur­prised to hear what your audi­ence is thinking.

Not the what, not the how, but WHY

In the end, it’s not about what word we are say­ing or how we go about pre­sent­ing them. What really mat­ters is why. What is the value of what we are say­ing? Why does it mat­ter to the audi­ence? Why does it mat­ter to you as a speaker? By first under­stand­ing and express­ing why we are speak­ing on some­thing, we give value and pur­pose to the what and how of what we’re saying.

A num­ber of our fel­lows piped in with their own advice on pub­lic speak­ing strate­gies from their own work and expe­ri­ence. Sarah Saez rec­om­mended that the best speak­ing pol­icy she uses is to sim­ply “to approach peo­ple with­out judge­ment and with respect”. Kate McDe­vitt shared that in her work, she usu­ally attempts to ask ques­tions rather than talk­ing first and attempts to learn why her audi­ence is there, so she can bet­ter shift her pre­sen­ta­tion to fit the needs of her lis­ten­ers.

In the final part of the day, the fel­lows deliv­ered their own sto­ries with con­vic­tion, emo­tion, and a lit­tle bit of humor. Even through nerves, each spoke to their own causes, mis­sions, and goals with true pas­sion.

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Alex Southard
Small Business Engagement Specialist, City of San Diego Economic Development Department

Alex Southard serves as the Small Business Engagement Specialist in the Economic Development Department at the City of San Diego. Driven by...