Melbourne Cup speech – lesson for business

Melbourne Cup speech – lesson for business

I was at business event recently eyeing the butter knife on the table in front of me, wondering if it would actually be effective if I stabbed myself through the heart with it. Anything to be relieved from the tedium of too many speeches, of which almost all were too long and somewhat ineffective.

I have been to a number of such events this year. You probably have too?

At one event, a politician read a speech at breakneck speed with little eye contact with the audience. More importantly, it was obvious it had been written by a staffer who had crafted a speech without much purpose or conviction. The speech was a not so clever collection of facts and political slogans. Why do politicians do this? I am betting almost everyone switched off at about sentence number two making it a poor use of the staffer’s time and the politician’s time in reading it. (I digress, sort of, but feel better).

Contrast this to Melbourne Cup winner Michelle Payne’s post race speech. Her “get stuffed” media comments afterwards made even more of an impact but the speech provides some good lessons for business communication.

Once the speeches were finally over at one of the recent business events, the topic of good and speeches came up. Everyone at the table had heard Michelle’s speech and most could relay it. All had  understood her message.

Yes, Michelle Payne’s speech was memorable because she was the first woman to win a Melbourne Cup but also because she:

  • had thought about her speech beforehand (even though she was a 100-1 shot) but didn’t read something
  • was gracious yet spoke from the heart and spoke the truth
  • kept it short and simple (about three minutes)

Michelle had three key points ‚Äì to thank people, to point out that women don’t get a fair go in her sport and to inspire other female jockeys.

In business, if you aren’t clear on why you are giving a speech or presentation (or writing something) whether it is to staff, customers or regulators, then STOP, don’t do it.  You are wasting your time and, chances are, you will do more harm than good.

Follow these five simple steps and you too will be first past the post when delivering your next business speech or presentation.

  • Know the punters. Understand your audience. Who are they, what do they already know and what style of communication will suit them? Don’t use jargon they won’t understand.
  • Know the rest of the field. Know the context in which you are speaking and where. Who else is speaking to your audience, for how long and what are they saying?
  • Know your race plan. What’s the purpose of your speech? Is it to inform, entertain, persuade or fulfil a formality?
  • Know your horse well. Work out your key messages. Three is usually about as many as people can take in and all that time allows for in most cases. Rehearse – in front of someone or a mirror.
  • Race to the conditions. Deliver your speech in the best way possible for the audience and venue. Use the right tone, appropriate aids, look at your audience and make it interesting. It is best to have dot points so you don’t just read to them. BORING.

These steps also apply to other types of communication. (Funny that …)

Please, share your comments tips for effective speeches and business communication below. Not sure the editor will permit tips for upcoming races.

Image via The Age

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