Want to be a great speaker or presenter? Then stop trying to be. Here's the right way to be memorable—by committing to your topic and audience!
The moment you stop trying to be a memorable public speaker is the moment you can become one. Don’t think of the magnitude of your performance, though you can consider the importance of the speech. The merit of the material and how it affects listeners is what matters.
As with all things that approach greatness, you can’t get there by thinking small. ‘Small’ here means focusing on your own performance. To be great, you need to think of the big ideas and the people whose lives you’re changing.
After all, you have no control of anyone’s opinion of you. But if you try to understand and convey the truth of your speech, you can do your best and let it go at that. If you’ve done your job and are there to share something that really matters to your audience, they will listen, appreciate your effort—and perhaps even act upon it. This is the path to becoming a memorable speaker.
Still, there are ways you can help the process along. Below are two of them.
Are You Committed? And Can You Engage?
You don’t need exceptional abilities to be a memorable speaker. You do need a total level of commitment, however. Everyday people become extraordinary persuaders when they are a hundred percent committed to what they are saying.
That means knowing how to perform as a speaker or presenter! Learn how it's done in my Free resource, "Great Speaking? It's About Performance Over Content."
Consider Candy Lightner, the founder of Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD. After her thirteen-year-old daughter, Cari was killed by a drunk driver in 1980, Candy founded an organization that within six years included 600,000 members in forty-seven states. An ordinary citizen, Lightner became a powerful advocate for stronger drunken driving laws. She testified before state and federal legislatures, deploying her fierce commitment to save lives.
Your passion for your topic—and the urgency to get it across to others—is the equal of any sophisticated speaking technique. The deeper your belief, the more persuasive you will be.
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That’s because of the level of engagement between performer and audience, and especially the fact that it happens in real time. As in theater, a speech or presentation isn’t a one-way street. The audience is always an active participant in whatever is happening on stage—whether it's acting or public speaking. This level of engagement is what feeds the performer or speaker, inviting them to become even more committed to making a connection with listeners. Spectators can “catch emotions” from you on stage!
Since all of this is experienced by everyone in the same place and at the same time, it has much more in common with a face-to-face conversation than watching a film, TV, or surfing online.
Do you know how to be totally present when you speak so this happens? Find out how in my Free ebook, 12 Easy Ways to Achieve Presence and Charisma.
What Do You Want to Share with Your Audience?
You should be asking yourself, "What do I want to share to make all of this happen?" Can you put your finger on what will engage, interest, and even excite your audience?
Isn't that the whole reason why you're speaking? Naturally, this means focusing on listeners' needs rather than your own. To get yourself on the right wavelength, make the audience the center of your universe.
Know Your Purpose and Why Your Topic Matters to Listeners
You should go further, and ask yourself, “What can I say that will be of benefit to these listeners?” To get audiences moved and then activated, they must understand why your topic matters to their lives. Therefore, before you can share any message with them, you have to establish your true purpose in your own mind. Since a speech's purpose always has to do with benefitting listeners, clearly knowing that purpose is the key to getting the audience to relate to the topic. That means letting them recognize early in your talk their connection to the subject.
It also means remaining completely focused as a speaker! Find out how in my Free cheat sheet, "10 Ways to Stay Fully Focused When Speaking."
Give your listeners a roadmap—not only where you and they are about to go together, but why you're leading them there.
It might sound something like this: "I'd like to share an experience I had recently, because I think it's something you can all relate to." Or this: "I want to talk about something that I think matters to all of us here at the company." Then explain briefly why whatever you’ve just said is true. You'll discuss it in detail in a moment. But what you're saying now is: "Here is why you should pay attention to what I'm going to tell you today."
You may believe your data or slide deck is the really good stuff. But that's only evidence to prove the overall point you’re making. When you reveal what you want to share with the audience—and why it's going to make a difference in their lives—that’s the reason for your talk. The ever-present question, “Why should I care about all of this?" has now been answered in their minds.
And it’s been decided in your favor.
From here, you need to turn your topic and your commitment into a dynamic performance. Next time: how to turn your passion into a powerful speech.
 Roger Ailes, You Are the Message (New York: Doubleday, 1988), 77-78.
 Bruce McConachie. Engaging Audiences (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), 1, 7.
Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2021 for the eighth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His third book, The Online Meetings Handbook is available here and at Amazon. To know more about The Genard Method's services, Contact Gary here.