Working in public service, there are many situations where you’ll be speaking in public: running a meeting, interviewing for a job, presenting to citizens. The key thing to remember about all these kinds of speaking is why you’re there in the first place: to influence others to do something you believe in. Focusing on influence is important for two main reasons:
- Knowing deeply the reason for your talk and the outcome you want is a great way to channel your energy. Many public servants don’t love public speaking — but they love the people they serve. Remembering why you’re there will help you get over nerves. As I like to say “suspend your humility for the sake of humanity”.
- To influence someone to do something — like adopt your policy or hire you — you first need to make them listen. Establishing credibility and likeability is important for all public speaking. One of the best ways is through your introduction — your personal elevator pitch.
Introductions should do three key things:
- Establish credibility: Why should we trust what you’re saying? What are your most impressive relevant experiences? What well-known organisations or people are you connected with? Of course, don’t do this in a way that sounds like a ‘brag’...
- Establish authenticity: A great introduction weaves a quick story about how and why you’re in this room today. What were your childhood ambitions? What are your passions in life? How do they connect to your professional experiences? Why are you a public servant? This will help the listener to trust you — and warm to you as a genuine person. Charisma is defined as both strength and warmth.
- Make it memorable: You might be the last to speak at a conference. Or a meeting squeezed in a hectic diary. The human brain remembers much better if a story is brought to life by a detail or feeling. It has to do with how the brain works. When processing facts, two areas of the brain are activated. A good story engages other areas too, like the sensory and frontal cortex. A funny or vivid detail will paint a picture and stay with someone. You could tell them what you wanted to become in preschool. Or tell them your favourite colour or game. The listener will likely also remember how you made them feel. What’s the one word emotion you want to convey?