To be a successful speaker, develop stage presence! Here are 3 powerful techniques to interest, engage, and excite listeners.
Want to develop greater stage presence as a speaker? It's easier than you think!
The Secret of Speaking with Charisma
To become a more exciting speaker, remember this simple rule: don't try to be exciting. Far too many motivational speakers who work furiously to get listeners excited violate this commandment, to painful results. Ever watch one of these speakers and say to yourself, "Real people just don't move like that!" If you have, you already recognize that these speakers expend far too much energy on external and artificial results.
The cornerstone of all good and truthful speaking—which by nature is exciting—is honesty. If you truly have something to say, and you're passionate about getting that message out AND meeting the needs of your audience, you'll have taken the first step to becoming someone who's exciting to listen to and watch.
In other words, you can't reach the destination of exciting speaking by trying to get there. Instead, you need to take the right road.
The Three "Vs" of Speaking: Verbal, Vocal, Visual
When you deal honestly with an audience like that, they will trust you. They'll then be more likely to open themselves to the influence you're trying to generate, not through phony excitement but the real thing. (To connect with listeners powerfully and move them to action, learn to interact with your audience. See how in my article, "Interaction! — It's the Soul of a Great Presentation.")
From that starting point, you can work on three specific areas to translate your knowledge, commitment, and passion into exciting results. Just remember the "Three Vs":
Verbal Skills for Speech: This is your content. While it is true that most speakers spend too much time gathering content to the exclusion of everything else, your message and the evidence you use to support it certainly matter. Speaking to influence means having something worth saying along with saying it well!
Is your evidence compelling? Do you use inclusive references that speak to the audience's desires and needs (for instance, saying "we" instead of "I" or "my")? Do you tap into the richness of our language by using evocative words, and employ frequent metaphors and comparisons? Is emotion part of your toolkit—as it must be if you're trying to persuade? Above all, do you tell astory that will engage, interest, and inspire? All of that is exciting!
Vocal Skills for Persuasion: We all know that non verbal communication plays a central role in persuading and moving those we speak to. Yet how many of us grasp that voice, body language, facial expressions, and use of space can constitute up to 93% of an audience's perception? (See Albert Mehrabian's 1981 book Silent Messages.)
Communication professionals often argue about the exact percentage. But whatever it works out to, the fact remains that non verbal communication is a huge determinent of how you affect audiences. And that plays directly into whether they think of you as exciting. In this regard, while "verbal" is what you say, "vocal" is how you say it—and can often change the meaning altogether.
So spend some serious time on your vocal expressiveness, including these elements: emphasis, pitch inflection (the one you are probably weakest in), pace/tempo, pauses and silence, and vocal quality. To learn more about these techniques, see my cheat sheet "5 Key Tools of Vocal Dynamics."
Visual Skills for Influence: Here's where body language comes into its own. Exciting speakers know that what they show is a huge factor in what audiences take away. That's a great argument for thinking in visual, not just verbal, terms when you prepare your speeches and presentations. In addition to the visual elements that come easily to mind—PowerPoint, flip charts, whiteboards, and handouts—consider how you come across to the people watching you.
How do you relate to them physically; have you ever considered that fascinating question? Or how about your use of space, which demonstrates your confidence or timidity, your sense of leadership and command, and even how you feel about the audience? Do you take every opportunity to get as close to your listeners as possible, for instance coming out from behind a lectern? And a last point: Do you have more of a relationship with your notes or the PowerPoint screen than with your listeners? Many speakers do!
So learn how to use posture, stance, gestures, and stage position to advantage. But above all, discover the sheer enjoyment of speaking to people who want and need to hear what you have to say. Show them that enjoyment when you move (naturally), let them hear it when you speak, and use language that allows your influence to soar. Perfect your use of the "Three V's." That will be exciting!
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