Making yourself a powerful speaker is a lot easier than you think.
And power—in terms of the dynamism of your platform skills—matters greatly in the world of business speeches and presentations. (For more on how to inspire and influence audiences, download our cheat sheet, "4 Characteristics of an Influential Speaker.")
You may be the world’s foremost authority on your subject. Yet the fact remains that when you speak, you will 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 take the no-sweat approach and send out a blast e-mail of your speech. Then no one would have to show up, including you.
A Speaking Version of Yourself
So if you have aspirations for leadership, from today on think in terms of the “speaking version” of you. This is a performance persona that’s the essence of you talking about your subject area. It is, after all, the person your audiences will find most interesting.
In other words, it’s not enough just to be who you are when you speak in public. 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 are in good hands. Make it easy for listeners to relax and trust that you are such a speaker. All it takes is for you to trust yourself. Believe that you’re a natural performer, because you are. Just think of how many times in a day you trust yourself to communicate with others without premeditation.
Notice that I have used the word “trust” five times in the two short paragraphs above. 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 without sharing your real feelings with listeners, your audience will want it to be over as quickly as you do.
3. Delivery. Every audience arrives with preconceptions about a speaker. They may have nothing to do with you personally, but may be tied to the topic, organization, or viewpoint you represent.
You need to show that you are able to “deliver” on the implied promise that your presentation has created, 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 changing the thinking and behavior of your audience.Takeaways from this blog:
- Whatever your expertise, you'll be measured as a performer when you speak.
- Becoming a powerful speaker is easy through competence, rapport, and delivery.
- Your audiences will equate your messages with you.
- Spend the time and effort to make a "speaking version" of yourself.
My previous blogs on this topic:
- Leadership Skills: The 5 Essential Speaking Techniques
- 4 Easy Ways to Become a More Charismatic Speaker
- Speaking for Leadership: 5 Ways to Inspire Your Audience
- Leadership Skills: 10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused while Speaking
- Public Speaking Leadership: How to Motivate an Audience