It’s a lot easier to make yourself a powerful speaker than you might imagine.
And power—in terms of the dynamism of your platform skills—matters greatly in the world of business speeches and presentations.
You may be the world’s foremost authority on your subject. Yet when it comes to public speaking and persuading audiences, you'll be measured as much on your performance as your knowledge or expertise.
Political consultant Roger Ailes understood the juncture of self and message well, when he titled his 1988 public speaking book You Are the Message.
In plain terms, your audiences will equate your message with you. And that’s a good thing. Otherwise, you could simply send out a blast e-mail of your speech and no one would have to show up—including you.
Develop Powerful Presentation Skills
So from today on, think in terms of the “speaking version” of you: the essence of you talking about your subject area. That’s the person your audiences will find interesting.
In other words, it’s not enough just to be who you are when you present. You have to construct a performance version of yourself. That requires marrying your honesty and truthfulness about your message, to some simple but powerful presentation skills.
Here are three areas of speech performance to keep in mind in this regard:
1. Competence. Advertise your competence in everything you say and do. When you trust yourself and what you are saying, your audience will trust you. That’s the first step that allows them to invest you with presence and authority.
Every audience wants to feel that they’re in good hands. Make it easy for listeners to relax and trust that you are such a speaker. All it takes to start is for you to trust yourself.
Notice that I have used the word “trust” four times in those two short paragraphs. This is not a subtle hint.
2. Rapport. Find a way to identify with your audience’s values and experiences, and externalize the connection by what you say. Most listeners resist speakers whose background or known views are noticeably different from their own. Wherever you can, show that you and your listeners share common ground. Remember that our experiences, motivations and feelings unite all of us around the world far more than they divide us. Create an atmosphere in your presentations that fosters persuasion and believability.
And remember to be interesting! You can judge this yourself in your practice sessions. If you’re looking forward to just getting this painful experience over with, your audience will, too.
3. Delivery. Every audience arrives with preconceptions about a speaker. They may have nothing to do with you personally, but be tied to the topic, organization, or viewpoint you represent.
You need to show that you can “deliver” on the implied promise of your presentation, i.e., that it will be worth spending time and effort to listen to. That’s what delivery means in this respect. When you give your speech dynamically and with conviction, you’ll be “delivering” the goods!
Credibility resides in speakers who appear confident and committed. And of course, there’s simply no substitute for enthusiasm. Embody your arguments with an energetic delivery, and you’ll go a long way toward positively changing the thinking and behavior of your audience.