You can’t avoid it!
Whether it’s a keynote, a baby dedication, a speech at a wedding, or giving feedback at work—you’re gonna have to give a speech!
Some people like the sound of their own voice; others shrivel up and want to hide.
I don’t know which camp you fall into, but I know that when you speak, you want to be good at it.
By the way, don’t feel guilty about wanting to impress your audience. You’re not on an ego trip; it’s natural, everyone feels this way.
The main thing is, you don’t want to say the wrong things, and you want to resonate with the people you are speaking to.
There are lots of tools, books, and tips out there, but I’ll be honest—most of them aren’t that useful. (Trust me, I’ve tried them!) Not to worry though, if you want your audience to stop fiddling with their phones and lean forward and give you their undivided attention, then here are four tips from the pros to help you.
The power of a name
In his book, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Public Speaking, Dale Carnegie, international best-selling author of How to Win Friends and Influence People says, “A great way to open lines of communication is to use the name of the people in the audience in your speech.”
I’ve done this a few times and I’ve been in the audience when a speaker has done this. I’ll never forget being in the audience listening to Antony Knotts preach.
Whether he knows it or not, he had our attention immediately. He turned to an audience member and said, “David, what you need to realise . . .” He did this only a few times, but every time he mentioned a name two things happened.
1) We looked in the direction of the person he was talking to.
2) We knew at any time, even if he didn’t know our names, he could use us in his illustration.
We weren’t being spoken to; we were a part of his speech. For this to work, you have to genuinely connect with the event planner and the group you are speaking to. Dale also says:
Only mention people’s names in a favorable way.
Be sure you know their names correctly.
Use this tool in moderation during your speech.
The power of a question
In the book, Speak Like Churchill Stand Like Lincoln, James C Humes reveals the awesome superpowers of a question. He says, “Questions force your audience to think!/react.”
I usually use questions in storytelling to create pull-in moments, when I am helping the audience make a connection between my story and their circumstance. Sometimes it’s useful to start a speech with a question. This helps the audience know what direction you are going in when you are speaking.
The power of the room
Most speakers don’t realize that connection begins before they get on stage. John Maxwell takes it further in his book Everyone Communicates, Few Connect, and gives this tip!
Pay attention to your surroundings if you desire to connect. You can’t ignore your environment. You can’t assume the setup is conducive to connecting. That’s why I try and visit the venue beforehand. I want to ensure that nothing in the setup stops me from connecting.
I’ve been to venues that were much smaller than I imagined, and this meant I had to make changes in the way I delivered my speech. Sometimes the room will be smaller than you thought – there will be no stage or PowerPoint device – all these are things that can affect your presentation.
Try and visit the venue if possible so you can double your chances of connecting. If you can’t visit the venue, ask the event planner:
What time in the day will I be speaking?
How long will I speak?
Will there be other speakers before me?
How many will be in the audience?
What is the size of the room?
Is there access to video and PowerPoint?
The power of three
Carmine Gallo, speaker, and author of the book Talk Like TED says:
Three is the most powerful number in communications. It’s more intriguing than two points if you give two lessons the brain expects more.
You can use the rule of three to structure your presentation, to create moments of humor, or even to give a short pitch. Just remember that it increases memorability, and, as a speaker when you speak you want to be remembered!
Pulling it all together
It’s not realistic for you to try and add all of these tools to your speaking at once. In fact, it would overwhelm you. Try one tool in your next presentation and watch how your audience responds, even if that tool is simply going to the venue before you speak. When you do this, you’ll see that you instantly pull their attention, and their eyes will be glued on you. Then, once you have their attention you will be one step closer to giving the speech you’re dreaming of.