It’s the time of the year again when the opportunity to address an audience could arise. It could be an end of year company party, a family gathering, or even a wedding. You could be asked to give a vote of thanks, speak on behalf of the family, or your department; or, in true peculiar Kenyan style, out of the blue, you could be asked to, “just say something”.
You’ve heard it said before but one more time won’t sink the boat: the fear of death comes second to fear of public speaking; meaning, at a funeral most people would rather be in the casket than present the eulogy. And the casket represents death to an opportunity to stand out from the crowd; death to building your self-confidence; death to rapidly rising several rungs up the ladder of memorable staff in the minds of executive- which is what ‘reading the eulogy’ would do.
‘But what do I say?’ you ask. Well, remember it’s not a technical speech about company assets and liabilities or, how the recently installed IT system works. The mood is semi-informal and camaraderie-inspired. So, inhale deeply and exhale slowly. Relax enough to collect your thoughts, but not too much as to become casual.
What you will notice is that nine times out of 10, you will rarely be asked to speak on something you do not have an idea about. As for the 10 percent of the time that might happen, it is OK to say, “I congratulate Kip on his achievements but because I don’t know him at all, I cannot speak about him”; or, “I’m only two weeks into the department and so I cannot do justice to speaking about it.”
This does not mean you then slither away. No. Remember you want to stand out; you need to stand out. And so you counter with, “However, I can speak about what such achievements mean; or, about, the two weeks I have spent in the department. “Is this OK?” Most likely you’ll be told yes; not so much because we want to hear what you will say, but primarily because you did not shirk from an opportunity to speak in public, which is what most people would do.
As for the 90 percent of the time when you have something to say, limit yourself to three points and less than 10 minutes-long speeches don’t go down well with parties. The easiest and most effective medium to use is a story. Tell the audience you’ll speak about three things and what they are; then stating each give a story to trigger memories for those that know of it and insight for those that don’t.
In 100 percent of the time, don’t start with, “I was just ‘ambushed’”, or, such defeatist statement towards standing out. Just dive straight into, “I’ll share three things with you about Kip….”
Go get ‘em tiger.