Does anybody really listen when you speak? Whether you are having a one on one sales conversation, or delivering a keynote speech in front of hundreds of people, your primary goal is to be heard, get your point across effectively and have an impact. Your biggest nightmare is that everyone is either looking at their phones or using the opportunity to take a nap while you are talking.
As a small business owner, the ability to capture attention and be an effective public speaker is crucial. But for many, public speaking is anxiety producing, even terrifying. Even if you are not afraid to get up in front of a group and speak, you might experience doubt and uncertainty about how effectively (or not effectively) you are getting your point across. I for one hope to be both entertaining and informative when I speak, and I wanted to improve those skills.
Which is why I just attended Heroic Public Speaking Live – a three day speaking conference produced by Michael and Amy Port. The premise: if you approach speaking as a performance rather than a speech or a pitch, you will connect with your audience, draw them in, and capture their attention. I learned so many useful techniques and tips that I wanted to share a few with you.
“Good performance is authentic behavior in a manufactured environment.” In other words, performance doesn’t mean that you should be phony, or tell made up stories. It only means that you plan your performance – what you say, how you say it, when you say it, for maximum impact. If you are speaking for business or meeting with a prospect, the best thing you can do is to rehearse. Rehearsing doesn’t mean that you have to appear canned or mechanical. It just means that you will know your material so well, that nothing unexpected can throw you off. Not even nerves. If you wing it, the audience will know.
Some of my biggest take-aways and aha moments came from the sessions that focused on creating the content for your speech or presentation.
- Every speech delivers on a promise. Most great speeches have a foundation based on a big idea that supports the delivery of that promise. It should be simple, clear, and easy to repeat over and over. (I have a dream……) It doesn’t have to be a new idea, you just need to deliver it with courage and conviction.
- Gain the trust of your audience by demonstrating that you know how the world looks to them. Put yourself in their shoes. Tell a story that relates you to their situation. If you appear to be “above” them, you will not reach them effectively.
- Big ideas can be scary and you might encounter resistance to yours. It is important to demonstrate the negative consequences of not adopting the big idea. If you point out the pain the current situation is causing, they are more likely to accept your solution.
- We all know that stories are a very effective way to get your point across. But where do great stories come from? A big eye opener for me was that we can source stories from our own lives that have nothing to do with our topic, and extract a lesson or use it as a metaphor for your point. For example, you could tell the story of the day your first child was born, and potentially relate it to a talk about business, life transitions, finance, mindset, etc., as long as you can extract a relevant lesson. If this is the kind of story that your audience will relate to, it will have an impact.
- When telling a story, add interest and texture by changing your body language and your voice to indicate a change of character or attitude. Move intentionally. For example, you could say “Jane Doe was a corporate executive in XYZ company, and she was struggling to keep her team focused and working towards the same goal.” OR, you could say “Jane Doe came to my office recently and she was distraught.” (In a different, stressed out voice) “Donna,” she said, “I can’t take it anymore. My team is giving me chronic headaches” (start pacing and put your hand on your head). Can you envision it? Do you see the difference?
If you would like to dive deeper into some of these techniques, the good news is that they are already planning another Heroic Public Speaking event for next year. In the meantime, you can buy the book – Steal the Show: From Speeches to Job Interviews to Deal-Closing Pitches, How to Guarantee a Standing Ovation for all the Performances in Your Life – by Michael Port. (And no, I’m not an affiliate, but maybe I should be!).
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