While senior editor Alison Bass and the rest of the edit and design team were conceiving and creating this fabulous issue, I was out on the conference circuit speaking at various events. As a CIO, you too are asked to get up in front of a crowd from time to time, so I thought I’d pass along some of what I’ve learned. Whether it’s a local gathering of fellow CIOs, a keynote speech at a CIO Perspectives conference, a panel discussion or even a presentation to the board, you’ll do a better job and enjoy yourself more if you take some basic steps to prepare.
Before you say yes to a speaking request, find out the following information (if you’re at a big company, your PR reps will do this for you, but make sure they ask the right questions).
Organizer and sponsors: Are they reputable?
Audience size and composition: Are they peo- ple you want to reach?
Other speakers: Will you be in good company?
Format: Does the organizer want a prepared presentation, or is it a panel discussion or Q&A?
Topic: Is this predetermined, or do they want you to come up with something?and by when?
Time slot: How much time do you need to fill?
Money: Is there a speaker’s fee? Will they pay for your hotel and travel?
Support: Will you have a single point of contact for pre-event and onsite support?
Publicity: How will this be promoted?
Once you’ve signed on, block out time in your schedule to prepare your content and your delivery. While writing out a speech in script form may make you feel more secure, unless you have a professional speechwriter and get good training, it can lock you in, making you come across as wooden and unnatural. Draw up an outline to frame what you want to say and consider the following.
Create bullet points for the specifics, with key points and backup data.
Talk through your bullet points?fleshing them out as you go?until you’re comfortable you’ve got your message on track.
Build in anecdotes, stories, quotes or visuals.
Rehearse in front of a mirror a few times.
Keep any great sound bites you come up with, but don’t try to memorize everything you’re saying. Focus on your delivery.
Are you looking at the audience?
Speaking clearly and with good intonation?
Standing straight and relaxed, with your hands at your sides?
Moving naturally around the stage and gesturing appropriately to support your points?
This is a good time to ask your spouse, a colleague or a speech coach?if you have one?to watch and listen and provide feedback.
Of course, all this takes time, so the earlier you start, the better. If you’re well prepared, you’ll be more effective and you may even have fun.