Nothing beats a good speech.
As a speaker, it’s your greatest sales tool.
This means you must nail every presentation. You’ve got to bring your “A” game every time.
Not only do you have to put the hours in before a presentation, on the day of the presentation itself — when you’re faced with the reality that every eye in the room will be glued on you — your audience expects you to deliver!
No matter how seasoned you are, every speaker feels this pressure.
I felt this pressure a few months ago. I was booked to speak at the Toastmaster Division K conference in London and after agreeing to speak I felt like backing out of it.
I was freaking out.
I hadn’t given a presentation in over six months; I knew I wouldn’t have much time to rehearse, and I was the last speaker in a six-hour event! I thought the audience would be drained by the time I spoke.
Can you imagine how shocked I was when minutes into my presentation my audience was hooked?!
I’ve heard about an audience being on the edge of their seats and hanging on your every word, but seeing it happen felt special.
And then what happened after the speech was crazy.
My sales table was bombarded! Audience members went to social media to talk about what they had experienced. People even approached me and asked if I could speak at their next event!
Everything just fell into place.
Looking back at why the speech went so well, I recall seven things I did in this presentation that you can use to give the type of speech people will be talking about, years after you have spoken.
1) Start with a call to action!
Yep, you heard me. Start with a call to action. Tell a story and give your call to action at the beginning of your speech!
This might seem strange because the call to action usually comes at the end of a speech.
I discovered that starting with my call to action meant I started with passion, and this raised the energy in the room.
Starting with a call to action didn’t mean that I didn’t have a call to action at the end of my presentation, it meant that I had two!
Why this works
Starting with a call to action disarms your audience.
Most speakers are predictable so audiences choose when to switch on and off during your speech.
If you do the call to action at the start, not only will you be delivering with a sense of energy and urgency, you’ll be less predictable and that will build anticipation for the rest of your speech.
You should always have a call to action, but if you create two and weave them together, you are on your way to a memorable speech.
Yes, it will take some work but it is worth it.
2) Sell it before you tell it
There is no better way to intentionally gain your audience’s attention, make them thirsty for your content, and keep them interested in your speech than to sell your content to them before you deliver it.
Here’s an example: In one of my speeches I say, “When I was shopping with my daughter, I found out just what it takes to become a great speaker — the type of speaker others try to imitate…”
With this line, I’ve sold the next piece of content I’m going to use.
I’ve told them if they listen to my next words there is going to be a benefit to their speaking growth. They’ll be thinking, ‘I wonder what he learned…’
Using a phrase like, “I don’t want you to miss this next point because it will…(add the audience benefit)…” is a great way to sell a point.
As is something like this: “Pay close attention because using this principle helped me…(add the audience benefit)…”
Selling your point is useful as transitions in your speech and they also keep your audience hooked.
Here’s a rule — the next time you are going to make a point, sell the point before you tell the point.
3) Tell conflict-rich stories
Storytelling isn’t going to build your career, masterful storytelling will.
Masterful stories are conflict-rich. I tell audiences all the time that the absence of conflict is the presence of boredom.
I’ve told conflict-less stories before and I could see how flat the room was when I was speaking. I wanted the earth to swallow me up at those times.
It wasn’t until I listened back to my stories on audio that I realised that conflict was the missing element.
Conflict raises engagement and builds curiosity; curiosity is an attention magnet.
Here are a few conflicts you can explore in your stories (for a more in-depth look at conflict, read my chapter in the bestselling World Class Speaking in Action book):
- Man vs man
- Man vs nature
- Man vs self
When you tell conflict-rich stories, your speech will captivate the whole room.
4) Reward your audience
During my last presentation, I stepped into the audience and said, “If you can answer the question I’m going to ask you during this workshop, I will give you a free copy of my book!”
I immediately saw them grab their pens and start taking notes!
Promising your audience a reward for their attention is a very easy way to keep them glued to your speech.
You can be creative with this. For example, I went into the same audience and picked out an audience member with a very nice suit and told him I was going to give him a free book because of his suit!
Rewarding your audience keeps their interest. If you want to really engage an audience, this is a great way to do it.
5) Be ‘you-focused’
Be ‘you-focused’ is an idea I picked up from my mentor, Craig Valentine. He taught me that ‘you’ is an important word that you can use when speaking to an audience because it makes each individual in the room feel like you are speaking to them personally.
You is particularly important when you are making a big promise to your audience. Here’s an example of a you-focused big promise I used to set up the rest of my workshop:
“By the end of this workshop, you will receive all the tools you need to master storytelling, which will help you stand out as a speaker.”
Can you see how many times I used the word you?
Another way to use you in a speech is to use what I call ‘pull-in’ moments. These are moments where you pull people into your story by asking a question or making a statement in the middle of a story.
Here is a pull-in moment from a recent presentation:
“My daughter was staring at the kiddie machine — and if you know anything about kids you’ll know that…”
You is a word that evokes empathy and connection. If you use it correctly, you will connect deeply.
6) Respond when you resonate
Too many speakers ignore the reactions of their audience members and miss out on the chance to connect with their audience. The key is to respond when you resonate.
If you want to develop a connection, respond to their reactions!
React to what your audience members say and how they react. This will make you seem more natural and help them feel comfortable and at ease.
This may mean coming “off script”, but they’ll become even more interactive with you and that’s a good thing!
Check out this clip below for an example (from 42 seconds in):
Can you hear how much laughter there is because I responded to the audience’s reactions?
7) Use the room…well!
One of the most under-used tools in a great delivery is the stage.
Many speakers stay planted to a spot and speak from there, or they don’t move in a way that engages the whole room.
Using the stage well is simply ensuring that everyone can see you and hear you during your speech.
You can’t be everywhere at once, but you can spend time focusing on one part of the stage then shift to another part of the stage as you speak.
What I find useful is to tell stories so all of the audience is engaged and then when I make a point, I move to the centre of the stage and plant myself so that the point hits home.
When you do this, you’ll resonate with your audience. Trust me, you’ll see them reach for their pens and start taking notes!
Go ahead and blow their minds!
It is impossible to have these elements in your speech and not give a mind-blowing presentation, so go ahead and use them to craft your world-class presentation.
It might take some effort but the rewards are worth it. Nothing beats the feeling of knowing that you have rocked the stage and blessed an audience.
You’ll stand out in a crowd of speakers, and your audience will hunt you down on social media just to get more of you.
Your products will sell and, most importantly, you’ll give so much value that you know that your audience members’ lives will change, and your event bookers will be begging to bring you back to speak again.
Go ahead and blow their minds!