We all know that to be a careful driver on the highways, we need always to anticipate. When we see brake lights ahead, we anticipate some traffic problem and slow down. If we come to an intersection we look ahead to see if anyone is entering it before us. In like manner, to be an effective speaker we need to anticipate.
? We need to anticipate with our notes. Always be a sentence or thought ahead so that you can look at notes as you are finishing a thought and thus do not have to pause to find your place in your notes.
? Anticipate the response of the audience. Be prepared to pause for laughter or for the audience to take a moment to assimilate an important thought. Look for the smile or the pondering look so that you will know to stop for a moment.
? Anticipate questions the audience may ask. Seek to think ahead about the types of questions which might be asked based on the content of your presentation. Consider any current issue that might relate to your topic that could create questions for you. If you are speaking on international travel, for example, be prepared for questions on SARS.
? Anticipate the unexpected. Think about things that might go wrong and prepare for them. Know where the light switches and electrical outlets are. Know who is in charge of the public address system. Sometimes you may need to know how to turn off the music that is wafting through the hotel sound system before you speak.
? Anticipate the emotional atmosphere based on the content of your speech. If you are about to share a touching story, you may want to slow down your rate of speech or use a softer tone of voice. If you are moving to an exciting narrative, you will probably seek to speed up the rate and incorporate more volume.
Anticipation will help you maintain a confident and competent manner in speaking. Few variables will create hesitancy or indecision in your speaking manner because you have considered contingencies ahead of time and are ready for them.
Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is a professor of speech communication at Northern Kentucky University in Highland Heights, Kentucky. He works with organizations that want to speak and listen more effectively to increase personal and professional performance. He can be reached at 800-727-6520 or visit http://www.sboyd.com for free articles and resources to improve your communication skills.