‘Tis the season to be jolly.
Until the boss pipes-up to speak and throw a wet blanket over the entire office party.
Quarterly updates, business progress reports and corporate ‘to do’ lists all have their time and place in the public speaking calendar. Just not at the annual office party.
This is the time of year when otherwise thoughtful, empathetic and inspiring business leaders inadvertently become irrelevant and dull. Or, potentially, even worse, they attempt to be hilariously funny, demonstrating a worrying lack of self-awareness. Which is such a waste. Because the office party provides a wonderful opportunity to give a speech that really does make a difference. It can do so by conforming to our twelve very simple public speaking tips.
For those who prefer watching to reading, here they are in technicolour:
For the readers, here’s how to be relevant, clear and really pretty special at your office party:
Put your audience first: Tonight of all nights is the one to be generous. You might be writing the speech on a cold Monday morning in early December, but you’ll give it at an event where your team are feeling upbeat and sociable. Put yourself in their shoes and write something equally positive, charming and brief.
Key message: It’s hard to retain an audience’s attention ta the best of times. Tonight is not the time for complex strategic thinking or detailed insights. In our experience, you will be lucky if your team remember more than one thing about your speech the next day. So make sure you decide what you want it to be.
Balance: Too serious and you’ll be forgotten before you’ve finished your first minute. Trying to be too funny and you risk them laughing at yu rather than with you. It’s a very fine balance. You need to know where you sit on that scale before you start writing.
Seamless: Don’t allow yourself to be end up giving a list (be of awards, achievements or thank yous). A great office party speech will link them all into what appears to be a seamless stream of consciousness.
Punch: It’s a party, so you need to sound even more punchy and energetic than normal. So don’t write your speech in paragraphs. Write it in short-sharp sound bites that link to create a narrative. Ensure that you don’t waste a word.
Pauses: Include regular pauses for breath while you are writing. It’s a brilliant discipline to ensure that you give your colleagues a chance to listen.
Emphasis: Read your script out loud at the end of the sentence. ‘hearing’ it will help you improve it. It’ll also suggest words that will require particular emphasis. They are usually adverbs and adjectives.
Length: Again, put yourself in their shoes. Forget what you want to say and have a think about what they’ll want to hear. Less is more. A decent pace for a speech is 120 words per minute. Once you’ve finished your first draft you may find that you have quite a bit of editing on your hands!
Pace: One of the worst offenders when it comes to public speaking. Too fast and no one will absorb a word you say. Too slow and you’ll sound inebriated. Get it right (that 120 words per minute
Eye Contact: If you look at your audience and smile occasionally, your impact is instantly magnified.
Body Language: An audience can’t help absorbing what you look like and what you are doing before they click into listening mode. They’ll pick up on your embarrassment, your hesitancy and, hopefully, your confidence. You can’t work on this stuff ‘live’ on the night. It’s all about rehearsing to look like you at the very top of your game.
Using your script: So many potentially great speeches have been ruined by speakers who forget their content, or who are clearly more worried about remembering what to say next than actually delivering it with impact. There’s nothing wrong with holding some notes, as long as you interact with them in the right way. Glancing at them during your pauses, and holding them well away from your eye-line maximises your chances of getting it right, without acting as a barrier between you and your audience.
There really isn’t a huge difference between an office party speech and a speech at any dinner or social occasion. Although the stakes tend to be a little higher – as you have to go and work with your audience the next day. The key is to be relevant – to THEM. Your audience. Your colleagues on the night. Think about them from the very start, write for them and speak directly to them, and you’ll be on the right track.
And remember, this may be an office party post, but these public speaking tips aren’t just for Christmas. They’re for life. Now imagine saying that at the office party. Squeamish looks all round. And you’d delete it instantly. See, it works!
Please do call us right up to the last minute if you’d like any help with your office party speech.
Email us on Lawrence@greatspeechwriting.com or call us on +44 (0)207 118 1600!