Think charisma is a mysterious quality you just don't have as a speaker? Learn these four simple approaches for more memorable and exciting public speaking.
Interested in engaging, motivating, and inspiring audiences? Want to be thought of highly in your industry and be recognized as a memorable speaker? If so, you need to go far beyond informing or even persuading audiences.
You need to speak with charisma.
That level of success means you need to speak as a leader. Leaders compel an audience's attention while speaking with stage presence and confidence. To do that requires absolute focus and control. Discover my theater-inspired techniques for commanding a stage! Download my essential cheat sheet, 10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused when Speaking.
Connecting with an audience and accomplishing this level of memorability as a speaker is easier than you think. One way to begin is by removing yourself from the equation. In other words, start making listeners the center of your universe.
You might be amazed at how much direction that point of view will lend you in meeting your audience's needs and engaging their full attention. From that mindset, you can use the following four equally simple approaches to making your presentations enjoyable for audiences.
They work for informative speeches, motivational speaking, persuasive speaking, pep talks, inspirational addresses, and any other form of public speaking. Equally important, they'll help you shine in your audience's eyes:
1. Make eye contact to gain trust with listeners.
Simply put, no behavior is as fundamental to persuasion as looking at the person you're talking to. When was the last time you trusted somebody who wouldn't look you in the eye?
So actively look at and relate to your audience when you speak. When I say actively, I mean let your gaze linger for a half-a-second to a second on each individual or section of a larger audience. Don’t “flick” your eyes at your listeners, thinking that constitutes actual eye contact. When you look at listeners while saying something you want them to believe, they'll trust in your honesty. And that means they’ll be more willing to be influenced by you.
Avoid their gaze just because you’re nervous—or weakest of excuses, because you’re busy reading your manuscript out loud—and you’ll have virtually no chance of changing their thinking or behavior for the better. After all, eye contact is called that because it involves actually connecting with others when you speak. Here's a technique you can use to dramatically improve your eye contact.
2. Smile to increase everyone's enjoyment.
As public speakers we don’t smile enough, period. Smiling is another prerequisite to establishing trust with audiences (though it’s not as critical as eye contact). At the very least, it’s visual evidence of the speaker’s enjoyment in the current activity.
In speaking situations where you feel a smile is inappropriate, take one of two alternate paths: (a) “open” your countenance by assuming a pleasant expression; or (b) raise your cheekbones, i.e., visualize your facial physiology in your cheek areas "rising" slightly, which, while that may not actually happen physicially, will positively affect your expression.
To explain what I mean by that last point, look at Grant Wood's famous painting American Gothic. That’s the one of the grim-faced farmer and his wife, complete with pitchfork. Now compare it to the Mona Lisa. There’s a lady with some raised cheekbones . . . and look how successful she’s been!
3. Energize your voice so you reach every listener.
Have you ever had to strain to hear what a speaker is saying? Soft-talkers and under-energized presenters make us work too hard just to hear them. Worse, these speakers seem distant, as though we've been left out of the communication loop.
Instead, be sure to generate enough vocal power and energy to reach every listener in the room. That includes not only people in the back, but those who are hard of hearing (always assume there is someone in this category in your audience). Remember also that your vocal energy must change in different spaces: the larger the speaking venue, the more you must project your voice. In auditoriums and lecture halls that echo, you’ll also have to speak slowly enough for the echo to reach your listeners before you go on.
When you project sufficient energy in a presentation, you make everything easier for listeners. Now they feel they can relax, instead of working overtime to do part of your job for you. The other benefit is that a strong vocal performance is an influencer in its own right. Here are 4 ways to achieve vocal power when you speak.
4. Enjoy yourself when you're speaking in public!
Now there’s a novel concept! Our culture has somehow invested public speaking with an aura of inconvenience, horror, and even torture—as if the entire experience belongs in an Edgar Allan Poe story.
But think about your own experiences as an audience member. Are you comfortable listening to a speaker who is hesitant, self-conscious, or fearful? A speaker who instead presents with verve broadcasts a completely different message. Audiences instinctively feel that this is a person who has something valuable to say.
It must be good stuff, they think—look at how much he or she is enjoying talking about it! Pretty soon, they'll be enjoying themselves as well. And that's a guarantee that they'll remember the experience with positive emotions.
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