So, you want to improve as a speaker and you’re not sure how.
Maybe you’ve done the basics — you’ve joined a Toastmasters club, read a few books, given a few speeches. But you’ve never seen an audience lean forward and listen while they hang on to your every word.
After you speak, people may have said, “well done”, but no one has told you that you smashed it out of the park!
Deep inside you know there is another level but you’re just not sure how to get there.
I’m going to be blunt. Most audiences will clap and give you positive feedback — even if you suck! That’s just how people are.
If you seriously want to give epic speeches and be known as an outstanding speaker, the following six steps will help you. These steps are a fusion of what I’ve used personally and what I’ve learnt from the best speakers.
Great speakers aren’t born — they are people who deliberately and consistently refine their craft.
The good news is there are a few things you can focus on that will help you reach your speaking greatness.
1) Get funny
If you want to light up every event you go to and be the speaker everyone flocks to after the event, then you’ve got to invest in entertaining your audience.
Entertainment is everywhere — on radio, film, social media… People are wired for entertainment, but they don’t expect it in speeches!
As you build a reputation for being a speaker who is entertaining, whenever people hear that you are speaking, they will shift their calendar to be there. I even had an audience member invite me home for dinner once because they connected with me so much during my speech!
Entertaining an audience is easier than you think! Little tricks and speaking hacks like “word play” and “the rule of three” littered along your speech is good, as is acting out characters in your story.
2) Get connected
Have you ever heard the saying, “People don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care”?
Your connection with your audience is critical to your greatness as a speaker.
But how do you connect with an audience?
Knowing your audience’s PAIN is the key. Pain stands for: Passions, Aspirations, Interests and Needs.
If you can craft a presentation around these areas, you will become more valuable to your audience and build an unbreakable connection when you speak.
While you speak, they’ll think, “He knows me so well”, or “I wish she spoke for another hour!”
When you take the time to research your audience’s PAIN, you are one step closer to connecting deeper.
3) Get books
Most speakers who bore audiences don’t realise this truth — they are not boring, their content is!
Nothing bores an audience more than a speaker who doesn’t have original content and just repeats what every speaker is saying or has said on a topic.
It’s just boring.
I’ll give you an example: in the public speaking world, most speakers and speaking coaches give the following tips for better presentations:
1. Make eye contact
2. Be yourself
3. Tell stories
If I go to the stage and say, “I have five speaking tips for you” and then go on to repeat the above, I’ve added very little value to my audience.
They could have googled that content.
How do you avoid this? You become a bank of knowledge by reading books.
I’ve read a lot of books on storytelling and I know that storytelling is essential to public speaking.
When I tell my audience about the value of storytelling (which is common knowledge), I don’t just stay “tell stories”, I tell them to tell “conflict-rich” stories.
I say, “If you keep them hooked (with conflict), you’ll get rebooked”, and that “The absence of conflict is the presence of boredom”.
I’ve read so much content on the power of storytelling for public speaking that I am now a bank of knowledge. I can withdraw from that bank and create original content at any time — or at the very least create a different spin on the same topic.
If you can find a way of bringing original ideas to the table or making old ideas fresh, you’ll stand out as a speaker.
I recommend reading because I realise that the more I increase (mentally) the more I can release (verbally).
Knowledge isn’t just power, knowledge also empowers.
4) Get a platform
Here’s a secret. Lots of people sit at home dreaming of being a great speaker. They fail to realise that the best way to get better at speaking is to SPEAK!
The World Champion Speaker, Darren Lacroix, has a speaking mantra — “Stage time, stage time, stage time!”
My speaking mantra is this: Always speak, always present!
It’s almost impossible for you to be a great speaker if the only time you are speaking is when you are presenting on stage. The best speakers are always speaking — even when they are not booked!
I noticed that I did this years ago.
I tracked my conversations in a day and realised that I had shared the same piece of information about 10 times! Sometimes it was while I was on the phone to friends talking for hours.
I would speak on WhatsApp audio, YouTube, at home, at work… I was always speaking! I would then take the best parts of those conversations and add them to my presentations.
Speaking doesn’t have to be an interruption to your lifestyle, make it a part of your lifestyle by treating every conversation like a presentation.
If you can’t find space in your life to speak, maybe Toastmasters is the path for you. Signing up to a club near you ensures that you’ll have the opportunity to speak at least once or twice a month.
5) Get a signature story
Nothing will enhance your speeches more than your ability to tell conflict-rich stories. I’ll go as far as saying that if you are not telling stories, you’ll never be a great speaker!
Storytelling is the game-changer when it comes to your speech.
The good news is you don’t have to have hundreds of good stories, you only need a few.
A good place to start is by crafting a signature story.
ALL the best speakers have a signature story. It’s a story you tell everywhere you go, usually at the beginning or the end of your speech. This story represents who you are and why you do what you do.
Your signature story is usually the story your audience remembers and retells! Your signature story will win you business, expand and enhance your reputation, and allow you to profit more than you can ever imagine.
I tell my signature story everywhere I go. Some speakers have even crafted a keynote out of one signature story, and they get paid handsomely for it!
If you want to be a great speaker, you need a signature story
6) Get feedback
After going through dozens of feedback forms and ten deliveries of my speech, I stood on the stage at the Toastmasters International UK and Ireland speech contest final and received a trophy and an applause that I’ll never forget.
This wouldn’t have been possible without feedback. Receiving feedback will help you enhance your speech and your speaking skills.
Feedback, if given correctly, can allow you to get inside the mind and hearts of your audience. It gives you an indication of what your audience is seeing, thinking and feeling while you are speaking.
Two of the best ways to get this feedback is to get one-to-one coaching and to watch yourself on video.
Coaching is great because it allows you to borrow someone’s mind and perspective on your material (just make sure the coach you hire is trained and proven and has actually been on stage before!).
Watching yourself on video gives you a direct encounter with what your audience is experiencing while you speak.
If there is no laughter, then you need to focus on humour. If there are no “aha” moments, you may need to focus on your content. Are you planted on the same spot throughout your speech? Maybe you need to work on how you use the stage!
Feedback is your friend — without it, you will miss a great opportunity to improve your speaking.
Be the best you can be
In a world crowded with average speakers and bored audiences, now is a great time to focus on getting better.
If you zero in on these six steps, your speeches will improve. You’ll see a difference when you look out from the stage.
You will have eyes glued to you in anticipation, people grabbing their pens and notepads, thirsty to absorb your content. You may even get a standing ovation sometimes!
What’s also cool is that as you get better as a speaker, your reputation will spread and event organisers won’t hesitate to bring you back and recommend you for other events.
Your calendar will fill up with events where you can once again give captivating messages that influence and transform an audience — a great pay off for taking a few simple steps!