I was at a wedding recently and moments before the best man’s speech he mentioned that he was “winging it.” I cringed. Before another word came out I knew that what would follow would undoubtedly be a long-winded jumble of thoughts and memories spliced haphazardly together.
I was right.
Public speaking requires a bit of planning.
Whether it’s a speech at a wedding, a presentation at a press conference, or an interview with a reporter, do everyone a favor. Give your words some thought beforehand.
I’m not suggesting writing out a speech to be read word for word. That’s just as bad, if not worse, than winging it.
What I am suggesting are compiling talking points: Bullets of information to keep you on track and to guide your discussion.
Here are some things to keep in mind when prepping talking points for a media interview or a presentation:
- Stay focused
There may be multiple facets to the subject at hand. Determine which is the most important and zero in on it. Trying to cover everything could result in your main point being watered down or missing altogether.
- Be prepared
If there are facts and figures that you know reporters – or your audience – will want to know about, have them at your fingertips beforehand. Reporters are trained to follow the money. If possible, be ready and able to share the project’s cost, for instance.
- State and restate
Since experts say people forget 40 percent of what they learned within 20 minutes, it’s important to emphasize your message. To be most effective, find a new way to say the same thing or a different example or context to drive home your point again.
- Make each word count
Sometimes people closest to a subject have the most difficulty determining lesser important facets. As much as 90 percent of what you share in a media interview will NOT make it into the story. Reporters must take large amounts of information and synthesize it into easier-to-digest sound bites and quotes. Tip: If you can say it in 5 words instead of 10, do it.
- Craft a great final thought
In a speech your final thought should retell or summarize the main point. In an interview, reporters will generally ask if you have anything else to add. This is not the time to give off the cuff answers. Instead, use this time to share something that has not been discussed already, to clarify a point or to underline an important message.
Theresa Katalinas worked as a reporter for daily newspapers and online publications for more than a decade. As the owner of Katalinas Communications, she helps her clients craft winning speeches and talking points. Call her at 215-519-8833 to learn more.