Just be yourself, right?
That’s the perfunctory advice we always give to friends preparing for an interview or giving a big presentation.
But when you’re charged with speaking to journalists, investors, conferencegoers, and/or analysts on behalf of your company, “being yourself” isn’t so simple.
As a spokesperson, you must anticipate the needs of an audience and embody the spirit of your organization at the same time — and serve them both.
Being a spokesperson
When you act as a spokesperson, you become your company personified. It doesn’t matter if you’re being interviewed on national television, conducting a local press conference, or posting to Twitter, the spokesperson is the public reflection of the entire staff and everything a company aims to accomplish.
But no pressure. Just be yourself, right?
Managing such an enormous responsibility and performing its duties successfully is the purpose of media training, wherein spokespeople undergo a kind of exposure therapy to master various aspects of professional representation.
At Sterling, we provide extensive and personalized media training “therapy” as part of our public relations services. But there are general tactical tips on how to speak professionally that you can practice on your own:
- The medium is you. Your delivery can either enhance or hamper the effectiveness of your messages. Make sure that the attitude you present (cheerful, serious, etc.) suits the personality of your organization.
- Pump up the volume. In spokesperson mode, most speakers talk about 10–15% louder than normal — and the practice is actually helpful for those listening. You can use diaphragmatic breathing to make your voice fuller and more resonant.
- Limit verbal fillers. Try recording yourself conducting a normal phone call or conversation with a friend. Review to check whether you deploy excessive verbal fillers (e.g., well, umm,
uhhh, like, y). ’know
- Modulate your tone. If your speech is monotone or clipped, your audience is less likely to listen — play with your pitch.
- Cadence can be powerful. On average, people speak 150 words per minute. Purposely vary your pace, it helps spark interest and encourages engagement.
- Every so often, use silence to punctuate a big point. Practice speaking in front of a mirror and pausing strategically to make yourself more comfortable with using silence for emphasis.
The aim of all this practice is simply to communicate more comfortably and effectively. No one wants to listen to what an automaton has to say, so natural enthusiasm, hand gestures, and sincerity are all great and it really is fine to be yourself.
What you say and how you say it already serves as a reflection of any group with which you are associated. This is a natural part of “being yourself” in life, so polishing your communication techniques as a spokesperson for your company is just a healthy exercise in self-improvement.
Photo by Gavin Whitner