Ready to leverage your knowledge and vision into a positive influence on people? Here's the easy way to be a more admired public speaker.
We all want to deliver influential and impactful presentations, don't we? But let's face it: becoming a great public speaker has to be one of the hardest things in the world. On the other hand, being yourself when speaking to others should be easy. (More on that idea below.)
The really excellent news, though, is that by doing the latter, you'll go a long way toward achieving the former. And it's all a more natural part of your life than you may think.
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Here are two ways you can be a more admired, and therefore influential public speaker.
Connecting with Audiences Beats 'Being Excellent'
One of the hardest things to accomplish in public speaking is to give a memorable performance by trying to 'be excellent.' In fact, it's impossible. That's because such a mindset points you in the wrong direction from the beginning: by focusing on your content rather than your listeners. And that usually manifests itself as an obsession with putting your content—rather than your connection with the audience—front and center.
As usual (at least in my work as a speech coach), the theater provides an apt comparison—because it's exactly the same situation an actor faces prior to a performance. No experienced actor stands backstage rehearsing her lines on opening night. Doing so is exactly like going over and over your content before a presentation. In either case, both performers, actor and speaker, would be focusing on the end result rather than the essential process of reaching and moving listeners. It would be like satisfying yourself by looking at the architecture of a house, rather than going inside to meet the people who actually live there.
The experienced actor at the moment before the curtain rises is thinking: "Where am I coming from? What just happened, and what am I thinking as I walk onstage?" He's concerned with bringing a real breathing human being onstage. That involves playing the inner life of the character, which informs the scene that's about to take place.
As a presenter, you too can benefit from theater-based techniques to bring life to your performances. In your case, it means thinking of how you can connect with listeners to get your points across. You can easily see why it's always the audience that matters, even in terms of the information you are imparting, can't you? Audiences that know they mean everything to you will admire you for it. And if it seems that your data matters more to you than they do, they won't.
Tap Into Your Skills as a Natural Performer
It's true that for some speakers, making a strong connection with audiences is difficult because fear and anxiety get in the way. For these presenters who need tools to know how to overcome fear of public speaking, it's not enough to hear: "Focus on your audience rather than your content, and everything will come out okay." Feelings of exposure, vulnerability, nakedness on stage, and even "the imposter syndrome" (the idea that at some point, everyone will see that you're a fraud) interfere with an organic connection between you and the audience.
Often, the self-talk that accompanies this response is along the lines of, "I'm just not good at giving this type of performance." The truth, however—which will give you great faith in yourself once you come to believe it—is that you are good at such performances. You only have to bring what you do naturally into the public speaking arena.
What I mean is this: You are most likely already a natural, dynamic, and effective public speaker. And you've been that way all your life! It's what happens whenever you're in a situation you're comfortable in, and with people you are relaxed around—in other words, when you're not self-conscious and focusing on your performance. Think of being with family and friends, at casual social gatherings, etc.
You're a natural performer because you adapt to people and situations and act accordingly. (And how interesting is that: you act accordingly?) When you're in Rome, in other words, you do as those Romans do. So tell yourself that this speech or presentation is just another performance, like those you give day in and day out. Because truly, it is! Are there more people listening to your speech than in a casual gathering? So what? "Be yourself" is still the right prescription. After all, you're the person everyone came to hear.
If you pretend to be something else, by focusing on 'being excellent' and basically tricking your audience . . . well, how could they admire you for that?
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