Want to take your talks from informational to sensational? Learn these four secrets for creating more exciting and memorable presentations!
You can give a perfectly good talk that deals with your topic well and leaves listeners more informed than they were before you spoke.
But don't you want to accomplish more with your speeches and presentations?
Aren't you looking to motivate and inspire audiences? Wouldn't you like them to be excited and ready to take some action? Perhaps best of all: don't you want your speeches to be memorable?
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For that you have to go beyond content into the realm of performance. Anyone can deliver information well with sufficient preparation and practice. But sensational speakers move audiences, staying in the minds of listeners long after they've finished presenting.
Don't you want to be that type of speaker?
How to Give an Entertaining and Memorable Speech
I hope this concept won't scare you; but yes, you need to be entertaining when you speak. Shouldn't any performance entertain an audience? That may not be your main purpose (unless you're giving an after-dinner speech). But it's an element of public speaking effectiveness.
Which leads me to the approach I teach my executive speech coaching clients. You can think of it as S.A.V.E, which stands for Shape, Arc, Voice, and Emotion. It's a method of helping you take your expertise and material and sharing it with listeners in a way that makes your presentation exciting and memorable. And it's 100% about performing your content.
If you read this blog regularly, you know that I frequently talk about the oral arena, i.e., the public speaking situation. It's the moment when you step from the literary world of your notes, manuscript, or PowerPoint, into the in-the-moment of sharing it all with listeners. The better you get at building your skills and enjoying yourself here, the more powerful your speaking will be.
Making Your Speech a Performance Piece
So, let's start with how you shape your speech. Actually, let's take a step further back than that: with the awareness that you do, in fact, need to give your talk a shape which will help make it memorable.
Let's assume that you know your content well, and that you've organized your material effectively. It's not enough. Since your listeners don't know the substance of your speech, the way you present it is vital to engaging them. Think of it this way: a nonstop recital of data is tiring to audiences, and surfeits them with information. If you do that, you haven't built in any breathing room—no place for listeners to hit the refresh button in their brains, as they pause and anticipate the next "new" thing.
Each of your main points is a mini-talk in itself. By becoming aware of that and giving your speech some shape, you'll make everything much easier and enjoyable for listeners. How is it done? Invest yourself fully in each portion of your speech, then clearly (in thought and vocally) finish that thought or idea. Pause long enough for the audience to realize that something new and is coming up. Then rinse and repeat. Now your speech has a definite shape not only through its content but your delivery, so it's easier and more entertaining to listen to.
Where's the Drama?
Similarly, know how and where your speech builds, reaches its climax, and achieves a conclusion—so you understand its drama. Even if I weren't an actor, I'd advise becoming aware of this aspect of your talks.
Call it the arc of your presentation. And speeches can differ from one another significantly in this regard. Consider a talk where you want listeners to take some action immediately after you stop talking—sign a petition in the back of the room, say, or take out their checkbooks. If we were to draw the arc of this type of talk, it would indicate a rising action, achieving its height at the end. Many other talks would not have such an arc, but include the high point or climax in the middle, followed by a long falling action, e.g., with a discussion of the topic introduced.
The point is, knowing where your audience will react not only intellectually but emotionally will help you perform your speech for maximum engagement. Incidentally, you'll feel this as well as listeners, and will be all the more effective because of that fact.
Using Your Most Powerful Performance Tool
Your awareness of the shape and dramatic arc of your speech—and how to use that knowledge as you perform it—won't be enough if you don't use your most powerful public speaking tool: your voice. The content of your speech is, basically, a blunt instrument; and even body language is obvious and overt. Not so your voice, however. It's your most flexible instrument for finessing what you say, to get across precisely how you think and feel about it all.
This matters greatly in public speaking. Presenters often make the mistake of thinking that the right content will result in the outcome they want from listeners. But that way of thinking negates the purpose of the oral arena. Everything you share with listeners is filtered through your sensibility and attitude toward that material. In fact, that's the whole reason you're there in person speaking to that audience.
Your voice allows this to happen in a way no other tool can accomplish, by eliciting in listeners the same response that you have toward your content. Imagine trying to do that with only eye contact or a gesture. Those tools can help, but they will never achieve the same level of subtlety and precision accomplished by the well-tuned . All of this is virtually an invitation to get the kind of vocal training or coaching that will give you that level of flexibility, isn't it?
Can You Please Get All Emotional?
Which brings us to emotion. All of the public speaking you do is emotional. It's not only part of persuasion—it's also an essential element of decision-making (as brain scientists have discovered). And of course, one human being sharing information that a group is mutually interested in, and who needs to be likable while doing so, is clearly an emotional situation.
But here's the rub (as Hamlet says in his famous—and heartfelt!—"To be or not to be" soliloquy): It's not as though presenters aren't affected by what they're saying. The problem is that they don't sound like it. There's also the need to choose words that reflect the passion in your message. But in terms of S.A.V.E, the performance element is the one we're after.
We're back to using your vocal instrument to connect with your audience, of course. But even before that's possible, make sure you're in the right head: the emotional one. Understand that along with shaping your talk, knowing where the drama resides, and improving your voice, you should view your speech through the responses of the heart. To be exciting (an affective response!) and memorable (a feeling on the part of the audience), you must be ready to let your emotions show. To do otherwise is to be all business-like and professional. And boring.
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