Ted ruined my speech

Public speaking is a sought-after skill in asset management and standards in the industry are high. Those of you who have ever seen the Lens speak formally – at our emerging markets conference last year or in the less pressurised space of a business breakfast, say – would no doubt assume our schooling in presentational skills is extensive or our ability natural (wouldn’t you?).

Actually, neither is the case and it may (or may not) surprise you that the Lens detests public speaking as much as you probably do.

If public speaking in a professional setting is not easy, speaking to an audience of friends and family is worse. While business audiences have short memories, relatives will recount your embarrassing gaffe for years afterwards.

And so, it is with dread that the Lens looks forward to making a compulsory speech at a family wedding this weekend.

Turning to the internet for help, we learn a few good tips. Of course, there is the importance of practice. There’s also the need to identify tongue-twisting passages, hone them down, and ultimately commit a more succinct version to memory.

There’s also the advice that looking between fixed objects in a room rather than at the audience helps convey naturalness when delivering a speech. Fire extinguishers and fire exits work best, apparently.

But the internet has also raised the bar considerably for the standard of public speaking through the ubiquitous presence of Ted Talks.

At the Lens, we watch a Ted Talk each month at our planning meetings. Until recently they were hotly anticipated, but the notion that almost anyone can stand up and deliver a highly polished and even inspirational speech, without notes, to a large audience, is infuriating. Yes, they are practiced, we know that, but that’s not helpful when you’re the one giving an epochal address at a wedding this weekend.

Fortunately, the internet also brought to our attention the book ‘Talk like Ted’ by Carmine Gallo. We might just squeeze it in before Saturday.

Hopefully, then, this book and the above tips will help you enjoy public speaking and not fear it. It’s a skill we all need, especially with the constant pressure some of you are under to speak at events. Finally, if the Ted book doesn’t work, forget about staring at fire exits. Trigger the fire alarm. Sadly, sprinklers ruin the bride’s dress, but that’s the only thing people will remember.