The only diploma that hangs on investor and philanthropist Warren Buffett’s wall is a certificate he earned from a public speaking course. Buffett believes that communication skills can make or break a career, and Seth Irby, Louisiana State ’11, agrees.
Brother Irby has spent his career speaking in front of crowds and training executives. He is currently chief marketing and customer experience officer for a large insurance company in Louisiana. Here are his top three tips to effectively speak in public:
Know your audience and figure out what they care about. Figure out how you can tailor your topic to their interests. Build a framework and stick to it before, during and at the end of your talk. Your framework doesn’t have to be complex, but it should have a main point and two to five supporting concepts. Refer back to it and use it as a roadmap for yourself and your audience.
Practice builds confidence, and confidence builds toughness. You’ll need toughness when public speaking, and in fact research shows that speaking in public is many people’s greatest fear. How do you build that toughness? Practice for yourself, taking a video and self-critiquing — and get feedback from others. Feedback is the breakfast of champions, and learning to try, fail and get better through feedback is one of the best things you can do.
By the way, Seth’s favorite piece of feedback is to eliminate filler words like “um,” “uh,” or “so” — the things we say to fill space when pausing. Get rid of filler words!
A Harvard Business Review study showed that while less than 5 percent of those who listened to presentations could remember a specific piece of data, 63 percent of listeners remembered elements of a story. Storytelling is powerful, and gives our audiences something to remember us by. Identifying great stories is a great way to plan for future presentations; Seth keeps a list whenever he hears a great story. Open with stories, tell them throughout and leave your audiences with great stories.
Watch Seth’s IGTV video here — and keep an eye out for a story about worms.