Public speaking and presenting

The Professional Development & Training Centre (PD&TC) is continuously expanding its offerings and addressing the changing needs of Cayman’s local workforce. In addition to the more than 75 courses in the subject areas of Customer Service & Business Essentials, Business Basics, Finance, Human Resource Development, and Supervision & Management, the PD&TC has introduced an International Speaker series.

The first courses in this series ‘Performing well: Speaking the language of leadership’ and ‘Self & company presentations: Creating a persuasive corporate image’ were presented by Alexander Von Reumont. Von Reumont, who currently resides in Germany, holds a Masters Degree of Science in Creativity and Change Leadership from the State University of New York, a BA (Hons) in Film and Drama from WITS University in Johannesburg as well as a Diploma in Business Management.

Those who have to give presentations and speeches to large audiences know that one does not need to have a stammer like King George VI in the film The King’s Speech to find these occasions intimidating, even terrifying at times. “This is what my training is all about,” says Alexander von Reumont.

Von Reumont, a rhetoric and communications coach, who regularly advises multinational companies on public speaking and presentation techniques, quotes a statistic that 80 per cent of people in leadership positions admit that they feel stage fright in these situations. However, despite all the anxiety that can build up when facing a public presentation, von Reumont has words of encouragement and dispels certain myths.

First, rhetoric or public speaking is a craft that can be learned and secondly even the very best public speakers have to rehearse what they say. “If you look at the great masters of public speaking, they don’t enter a place without having rehearsed their speeches. Bill Clinton is famous for that; he never gave a public speech without having rehearsed it. Never, not once,” says von Reumont. In these rehearsals the focus is on everything from body language, the tone of the voice and content to verifying what comes across to the listener.

The techniques used in the deliberate construction of a speech were largely the topic of his seminars in the Cayman Islands. The real difficulty is to achieve the desired effect within a given time frame and that is what great speakers are all about, says von Reumont.  How do you start the speech, how do you structure the content, how do you get out of the speech? That is craft and you can learn it.

In a first step the speaker has to decide how many parts the speech has. Time is another factor, as routine speakers who know a lot about a topic have to make a decision on how to bring their message across in the time allocated to them. Although most speeches only have two or three key messages that will be retained by the audience, it takes some time to develop a thought. “There is a certain dramatic spine in every presentation,” he says. “In public speaking you have to take people from where they are, then you have to say what you want and then you have to tell audience what this is good for.”

Von Reumont also addresses issues, such as charisma, that seem to be removed from the craft, but he says: “Charisma just means, what can I do to deliberately present a certain image?” This can range from the creation of myths, for example the story that Bill Gates started Microsoft in a garage, to the deliberate use of key words as part of corporate image design. As the brain develops certain associations with specific words and humans think in associations the correct use of these words can help control the image that is presented.

Learning to be a good speaker is something anyone can achieve, von Reumont says. “What I learned is that people who want to be good public speakers, they start to care for it. They don’t go out anymore without having rehearsed it, if possible with other people. It takes a while but it is like learning to ride a bicycle or driving a car”.

Alexander von Reumont will be back at the Cayman Islands Chamber of Commerce on 27 and 28 June to present a course on ‘Mastering Negotiations’.

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