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Chapter 13: Winning In The Court Of Public Opinion: Why You Must Always Prepare Properly For Public Platforms

Representing your organization externally needs a completely different set of communication skills. You should never do so without proper preparation. Understand who you’re talking to and what they need to hear, know your objective, train your voice and body to perfection, and always rehearse your answers to the tough questions that will inevitably come your way. Here are seven things to remember before taking to the stage, and 12 ways to make your material more compelling.

As a leader, not only do you have to inspire your followers, but you also have to influence positively the opinions and behaviours of people outside your organization. Why? Put simply, it’s because a better reputation will help you to achieve better results. You wouldn’t be a leader if you weren’t all about achieving better results.

The more senior you get, the more often you will have to represent your organization externally. The problem is, once you step outside the organization you lead, you need a completely different set of communication skills. The openness and informality that make you a good internal communicator need to be contained and tempered when you are on external platforms.

I would go as far as to say that you should actually avoid accepting a public platform unless you can clearly explain how such an appearance will benefit your organization. If it is simply about flattering your ego then you are in great danger.

You need to be absolutely clinical in assessing why you are appearing on a public platform – whether it is on stage giving a speech or in the media doing an interview – and accept that you need to put in a great deal of effort to make the most of such a public opportunity. Most of the leaders I have coached have rolled their eyes at the mention of training and rehearsing for speeches or media interviews. Somehow, the idea of practising becomes an annoyance that takes second place to the real business of running the business or organization they lead.

However, you need to remember this – every time you step in front of a microphone you not only risk your own reputation, but also that of the organization you lead. Never wing it. Training and preparation are absolutely vital.

Whether you are making a speech, giving a media interview or giving a presentation, there are seven basic rules that apply.

1. Know exactly what you want to achieve.

2. Make a speech or media interview your own – authenticity matters.

3. Prepare fastidiously for questions and answers, and rehearse your script to perfection.

4. Ensure you have a strong voice and a positive image.

5. Select and then stick to a key theme.

6. Find ways to make your material more compelling.

7. Take great and creative care with the pictures or graphics you use to illustrate what you want to say.

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