There’s one thing that consistently tops the lists of people’s fears. It beats spiders, heights or plane crashes—even drowning.
It’s public speaking.
People would literally rather die than speak publically, according to this 2014 Washington Post poll. But as a business owner, you may be called upon to deliver a speech, with expectations that you’ll wow the crowd.
You’ve heard some of the typical tips already. Practice out loud. Be prepared. Picture the audience members in their underwear (probably not appropriate for a workplace event.) But here are some guides for specific instances where you, in your capacity as small business owner, may be asked to deliver a speech, to help make sure you deliver—no matter the occasion.
If it’s a holiday party: Keep it light! It’s the holidays, so people are in the mood for merriment and cheer. Toss a few jokes in and make sure the tone stays jolly. Thank everyone for coming, and then let people get back to the festivities—work is the last thing on most people’s minds this time of year. Don’t forget to thank them if they chipped in and bought you a gift. If the holiday party guest list includes family members of employees, address them specifically: don’t bore them with office inside jokes, and let them know you’re appreciative that they share their loved ones’ time and energy with your company.
If it’s a celebration of a long-time employee: Show gratitude. Make sure you take the time to really think over the benefits your company has received from this person, instead of just blandly describing their job description. Tell any funny moments you’ve witnessed or reminisce back to their job interview. Tell the story of that moment when you knew you’d hired the right person for the job. He or she has put years into your business—they deserve a moment in the sun. If family members are there, acknowledge them as well for supporting the employee through years of service. In the case that you don’t know the employee terribly well, make some time a week in advance to pick the brains of their supervisor and close colleagues.
If it’s a company milestone: Get vulnerable. Tell your team how much it’s meant to see the company grow into what it is today. Whether it’s a big new sale or an anniversary, employees will appreciate your honesty and true feelings. Thank the people who have helped the company grow along the way, especially those lower on the totem pole like assistants who format letters or the cleaning crew who always leaves the floors sparkling. People like to feel as if they’ve contributed to something (particularly when they truly have), and recognizing their work will go a long way towards building a feeling of we’re-all-in-this-together and buffering office morale.
If you’re accepting an award: Stay humble, but don’t fake it. Accept the award with humility, but also mention that you try to work hard every day because it’s your passion, not because you’re out for a plaque. Don’t forget to introduce yourself and give an elevator pitch of your background if you’re at a ceremony that’s filled with people besides your own co-workers, and call out your family for the support they’ve shown during your career. Wrap up with a concise ending—something that will leave people remembering your company and your presence as a leader.
Public speaking doesn’t have to be a nightmare—just be prepared, stay relaxed, and show genuine gratitude. With a calm demeanor and a positive attitude, giving a speech can be a walk in the park.