Former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani said that when he first ran for public office he “would often stay up all night preparing” speeches. Laboriously, he would write some pages, show them to trusted colleagues, and “we’d slave over the exact language.” Result: “All that memorization and careful emphasis held me back. I thought of every word as though it were written on the Washington Monument–everything I said had to be precise.”
Then he made a drastic change, as he describes in his book Leadership. Instead of fretting meticulously over every word, “I went back to what I used to do in court: master the material, organize it, then throw away the text and just talk.”
Those of us who want to become mesmerizing presenters will benefit from what Giuliani added: “It now actually annoys me when people read their speeches. I want to hear who they really are, how they sound when they speak from the heart.”
Emphasizing again how abandonment of a written text unshackled his delivery: “I feel that I’m communicating more honestly, because I’m not reading from a script, but conveying my real feelings directly.”
In coaching leaders about their speaking, I point out that reliance on a manuscript or even detailed notes will erect a paper barrier between them and their audiences. Yes, research your topic thoroughly. Yes, outline the material in logical order. Then follow Giuliani’s example: “throw away the text, and just talk.”
Keep in mind that you are introduced to audiences as a speaker, not a reader.
Try Giuliani’s note-free preparation and delivery approach. You will love the freedom you experience. Equally as important, your audiences will embrace you fervently as you speak from the heart, not a page.
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