Are you a memorable speaker? To move listeners, you need to do more than present information. Here's how to perform with impact and achieve true influence.
This is about creating influence in public speaking—I mean, lighting a fire under audiences. It's about performing that task masterfully while speaking for leadership. And it's so easy and intuitive, you may not believe that this is how it's done.
As a speech coach, I work with high-performing executives who nevertheless worry about their public speaking skills. Part of my task in leadership coaching, of course, is to boost their confidence to aid their believability and credibility. At other times, my job is to re-direct their focus away from platform skills toward their true goal: connecting with and sharing something of value with stakeholders.
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On Acting, Speaking, and Joining the Crowd
I recently worked with a client where we discussed this concept. As always, I explained the similarities between acting and public speaking and the importance of connecting with the people in the seats. Of course, it goes deeper than that, since it's the ability to take what you're given (for a public speaker, the speech's content; for an actor, the script), but provide attendees with much more.
Actor or public speaker, it's the you in the equation that makes all the difference. You take the bare speech notes or script, and bring it into the public arena where it's shared with people. That's how influence is achieved that can't be otherwise occur. And that's what I'd like to talk about some more in this column.
So here are three ways to be the type of public speaker who stands out from the crowd. Interestingly, that's only possible if you join the crowd. Here's what I mean:
Be Ready to Engage Your Audience
This is a transformative idea for every person who speaks in public—it's that important. If you're concerned with your own performance (as we all are), you can lose sight of the essence of the public speaking situation itself, which is engagement with listeners.
The moment of the speech or presentation must always go beyond the exchange of information. Think of it like a recipe. The items to be prepared are important, of course. But nothing comes of it until the cook puts it all to work. Ingredients, time, and often, heat: in the process of combination, something new emerges.
It's the presentation process where you interact with listeners where the secret of public speaking lies. You're the filter, through which the content reaches everyone in a way they can understand and use it. Thinking like this—that you're there to engage people, as a kind of gatekeeper—is worlds away from the idea that your job is to deliver some slides. Being this kind of speaker, with this sensibility, will by itself make you stand out from the crowd.
Focus on (and Convey) the Significance of Your Data
So, you have some work ahead of you if you haven't been thinking along these lines. But how much more interesting (for you and your listeners) will your speech be! And how much more important an element you become in the public speaking equation.
Another way to say this is, you can't rely on your content to create the influence you're looking for. It all comes down to you. Picture a presenter reading her PowerPoint slides, and you'll understand how this speaker is ceding the influence that is rightfully hers to create.
Always remember, in other words, that your content approaches meaninglessness without you to interpret it. What's the significance of the data; which parts of it are important? Does this information need to be put into context? (Of course it does.) Why does all of it matter to listeners—have you made that clear? As you can see, without you as the true influencer in the room who goes far beyond what the data can convey, this gathering of speaker, attendees, sponsors, whomever, can't succeed as it's meant to.
Do Everything You Can to Get It Across
Once a speaker understands his or her role in the speaking situation, per the above, the whole idea of platform skills shrinks in importance. That's what I was trying to convey to my client recently. If the people you're speaking to become your universe, you'll do everything you can to fulfill your duty to them in terms of what they need to hear, understand, and act upon.
"The sound of truth was like an ax hitting an oak," a novelist once wrote. It's the same with the well-directed speaker: honesty and passion for helping one's listeners announce themselves for all to hear. That speaker doesn't worry about what he looks and sounds like. For him, only those listening matter. And interestingly, the skills of voice, body language, purposeful movement, and all the rest almost always fall into place without a huff and a puff.
Be that kind of speaker, and you'll stand out from the crowd. You yourself will be the guarantee.
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