Want to touch and move audiences instead of just giving a speech? Follow this simple formula to achieve genuine presence and charisma!
We all know that great speeches can change the lives of people, institutions, and nations. But even speeches that don’t reach that level of influence can and should reach listeners on a personal, intimate level.
Keynotes, presentations, informal talks, lectures, panel discussions, and media appearances are special events that should transcend the material being presented. A presentation to a group of listeners is a form of community. As in the theater, a speech requires a relationship between performer and audience.
Which means that more needs to happen than the dry delivery of information.
Do you know how to get a compelling message across with immediacy and influence? Learn how to establish credibility and connect with listeners to persuade and inspire! Download my essential cheat sheet for public speakers, “4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.”
The name of the game in any presentation is engagement. Here are four ways to go beyond reciting content to kindle rap attention in your listeners.
Your Influence Starts with Your Public Speaking Greeting
Do you use your greeting to start your influence as early as possible? You should be doing so—though too few speakers understand how it’s done.
Let me share my recent experience with a coaching client. This CEO was getting ready for a presentation to some big companies who might be interested in his firm’s products. In our videotaped practice session, he started out by saying good morning, followed by “I’m going to be giving a speech today on . . .”
When we stopped to debrief the practice session, I pointed out that a greeting is the place to start engaging and persuading the audience. It’s too good a segment of a talk to make it perfunctory or run-of-the-mill before we start our “actual” presentation! Here's more on how to give your audience a greeting they'll remember.
So I suggested he say, “This morning, I’d like to share with you . . . “ [his topic] and, “Which I think you’ll find really helpful . . . “ or something similar. Notice how the words I’ve bolded provide three ways to speak in terms of the audience's needs and interest? The result is listeners who'll begin tuning in early.
How to Start a Speech or Presentation: Using a “Grabber”
As often as speakers waste the prime real estate of their greeting, they to on to introduce their topic in a manner that is, to use Hamlet’s words, “weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable.”
It’s part of what I call the “Today-I’m-Going-To-Talk-About Syndrome.” That means a bald recital of the topic, often followed by a painful agenda slide filled with bullet points. If that doesn’t seem like work instead of something interesting and engaging, what does?
Instead, I suggest you learn the 12 foolproof ways to open a speech by using a grabber. Also known as a hook, a grabber is custom-made to engage an audience and pique their interest in what's about to follow. As rhetorical devices used for centuries, grabbers are tried and true ways of opening the gates of attentiveness and influence. Just remember: the effectiveness of your grabber depends upon how closely you tap into what turns these listeners on.
Living in the World of Your Audience
Let’s step back from tactics for a moment to discuss strategy. The practices mentioned above, of using your greeting to illuminate self-interest and employing a grabber to jump-start engagement, are part of a larger requirement on your part. That’s the need to “live in the world of the audience,” rather than your own.
Public speaking is naturally a speaker-centric activity. The high-profile nature of appearing in public, and the self-consciousness and nervousness that comes with it, usually makes us think in terms of our own responses and actions. But we really need to reverse that force field.
As a speaker, you should be thinking in terms of your audience at all times. Your success depends, in fact, on your understanding what listeners perceive and retain concerning what you’re saying. A change of thinking from speaker-centric to audience-centric is a sea change that can alter your entire approach to public speaking. The more you put yourself in listeners’ shoes to understand how they might react to what you’re telling them, the more you’ll engage their hearts and minds. Here's how to conduct an audience analysis to get yourself started.
Find Ways to “Touch” Listeners throughout Your Speech
Finally, remind yourself of the essence of public speaking: that you’re there for the audience’s benefit not your own. With the exception of Q & A, a speech can seem like an isolating activity—with you at one pole and the crowd at the other.
It’s your job to make that particular world a much smaller place. Say “you” and “yours” much more than “I” and “my” to let the audience know you’re thinking in terms of their needs and desires. And ask questions—not only direct questions or even rhetorical ones, but what I call “small questions” that are meant to re-engage.
You’ve seen speakers do that, haven’t you?
That’s an example.
It’s all part of what I call touching the audience. It’s reminding them in ways large and small (including getting physically close to them if possible) that the reason you’re there is to include them in something important. Remember: you’re a group that's going on a journey together. Compared with other forms of communication, public speaking is a very special activity that allows you to strengthen that connection through your performance.
You should follow me on Twitter here.