speaker-at-meeting-home-page-170Speaking Tips

These tips will help you get started with your speaking project. Rostrum will help you practise!

Mainstream media is more accessible than ever these days. Make your next radio or television appearance something people will remember for all the right reasons.

woman-speaker-laughing-at-audience-editCommunity radio and television are giving more and more of us opportunities to air our views through these media. If you are interested there are many ways to become involved. You can be trained at minimal cost in most of the technical areas of radio and television. You can gain valuable experience and expertise by becoming a volunteer at your local station. If you are prepared to put in the time you may even break into commercial radio or television and suddenly find yourself being paid very good money for doing something you love.

The opportunity to present

Community broadcasting is hungry for programming. If your aim is to be the 'talent', i.e. a presenter, newsreader, journalist or entertainer in radio or television you will need to build on your existing speaking skills. Your opportunity may be with your local service club, sporting organisation, church or musical society. Filling a half hour slot on a weekly basis takes a lot of work and the provision of an incredible amount of material.

Even if your interest is insufficient for you to be involved on a regular basis there are still a lot of opportunities that could be taken. They come mainly in the form of the chance to be interviewed on air in relation to your work, hobby or some other area you may be interested in. Perhaps you have a specific area of expertise that may be of interest to the local community. When your opening on radio or television comes along you will need to consider a number of issues.

Hopefully the tips that follow will better enable you to make use of this chance to use and build on your existing speaking skills.

Do I want to appear on this medium?

In most cases you will be asked to share your knowledge in a non-threatening environment. I encourage you to make the most of such opportunities, however, you may be asked to be interviewed on a current affairs type programme. If so, you will know from your own viewing experiences that you may not be given a fair go. If the topic is a controversial one and your view is one held by the minority there is every chance you may be a target for some rough treatment. Before accepting an invitation to be interviewed it would be prudent to consider the following:

  • Do you have the right to express a viewpoint? Perhaps it is to do with your employer or an organisation you belong to. In such a case you will need to seek permission before accepting the invitation.
  • Do you have the time to do justice to the task, i.e. have you got time to prepare? Do you have the subject knowledge?
  • If you are inexperienced you may want to participate in a recorded program but be reluctant to go 'live to air' as there are no second chances in a live to air interview.
  • I want to do it - but what are the traps and pitfalls?

Before committing yourself to being interviewed you may want to weigh up the pros and cons of exposing yourself to the airwaves. Then you will be in a position to make a considered decision. Think about these considerations:

  • Do you want to take the chance of being made to look foolish?
  • Do you have knowledge you don't wish to reveal? Failure to answer or evading questions can make you look guilty or less than truthful.
  • Are you available at the appropriate time?
  • Are you terrified of the experience?
  • Is it an opportunity to get free advertising for your organisation or product?
  • Will it lead to further opportunities and appearances?
  • Does it give you a chance to get a message across to the audience you want to reach?
  • Are you able to command a fee? (This is unlikely on community stations.)

If I don't do it, what do I lose?

  • Loss of an opportunity to spread your message.
  • Loss of a valuable learning experience.
  • The risk of letting the presenter use that damaging phrase, "despite numerous requests, Mr Jones of XYZ Pty Ltd refused our invitation to appear on this evening's show to present his company's point of view". Usually this phrase is spoken in a disparaging tone accompanied by negative body language.

If I do it, what points should I remember when appearing on radio or television?

  • Find out as much as you can about the host or interviewer.
  • Ask for a list of the questions you will be asked or the exact issues they wish you to discuss or comment on.
  • Don't use jargon or difficult language.
  • Address your audience not the interviewer.
  • Avoid fillers such as, at this point in time, well, er, ah, and so forth.
  • Don't lose your cool. Keep your temper under control.
  • Ask if there will be other guests and if so who they are and what is their particular expertise in the topic under discussion.
  • Will there be any use of pre-recorded material? If so ask to hear it prior to recording your segment.
  • Plan what you want to say and say it!
  • Don't be afraid of silence. If you have given an answer don't feel obliged to add more information. Just smile. The silence is a problem for the interviewer, not you!
  • Be aware of time constraints. If you are allowed three minutes you have just three minutes to get your point across. No matter how interesting and/or controversial you have been, or how unfinished the discussion, the interview will end.
  • Beware of being too controversial.
  • Stress the positive and beneficial aspects of the topic you are presenting.
  • If the interviewer tries to cut you off or talk over the top of your answer keep talking. He will give in, there are no ratings to be had in letting lengthy sections of undecipherable dialogue go to air.
  • Seek to re-iterate your main points whenever possible and to summarise.
  • In the case of television it is important to be well groomed, dressed to relate to the audience you are seeking to influence, and to be aware of your body language which is magnified on television.

In conclusion

The chance to appear on radio or television is usually too good to miss, so seize the opportunity. It may lead to bigger and better things. No matter what happens you will be a better speaker for the experience.

Reproduced from the Rostrum publication "Tips on Public Speaking and Meeting Procedures. Vol. 1" -a collection of 30 handouts by Ron Johnson.

The best speaking tip

The best speaking tip you will ever get is "practise, practise, practise".  That's the benefit of Rostrum.  When you have something important to say you can practise it in an encouraging environment with your Rostrum teammates.

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