You can’t be a premier league speaker overnight, but there some simple things you can do to vastly improve your skills and put you on a path to get you there.
These 7 actions helped me establish “great communicator” as a key element of my personal brand; they will work for you if you give them a try.
Work on your form
Work on your form; the mechanics of your delivery. Practice varying your tone of voice and the cadence of your presentation. There is nothing more boring and sleep inducing than a monotone presentation with little variation in volume.
Present your material to yourself and listen to how you come across.
Remember it’s not a speech; it’s a performance. Your job is to create a memorable experience for everyone in the room. People will likely forget most of what you say but will remember how you made them feel.
“Open, honest communication is the best foundation for any relationship, but remember that at the end of the day it’s not what you say or what you do, but how you make people feel that matters the most.” – Tony Hsieh
Be one with your audience
Lose the comfort tools; try it without a podium and notes to speak from. Embed yourself in the crowd so you can feel their energy and they can feel yours. Your end goal is to be “au naturelle” on or off stage. Try rubbing shoulders with your audience and see the reaction you get. I would always wander through the crowd while presenting my material speaking directly to people and engaging them with my material; it was amazing how everyone responded.
Emotionally connect with your content
Live and breathe your material; it should ooze from you when you speak. A presentation is not like giving an academic treatise; if you are not emotionally connected with and get excited over your stuff you won’t be believable and no one will listen. If you’re not turned on about what you are saying, why should anyone else be? They will actually turn off if you speak your words — we know you can read — as opposed to FEEL your words.
Keep your energy high
Get and keep your energy up. No one enjoys listening to someone who drones on as if they will die any moment. Take a deep breath before going on, say out loud “energy up!” (I did this every time) and say it to yourself throughout your performance.
If you must work from a script, bold the key points you want to emphasize and “punch it” when you get to them. The bold highlighting will give you a heads up to the piece requiring emphasis as you read the script — take a breath when you see it.
Be different from the speaker crowd
Study other speakers, not from the perspective of trying to copy what they do, but to determine how you can be different from them. The “boilerplate speaker” has no unique identity and is soon forgotten. You want them to say after your event “Wow! (s)he as not like any other speaker I’ve heard before”. The performers who are distinctive and who stand out from the crowd, on the other hand, earn return engagements and accolades from their audiences.
You’re NOT a speaker
Treat yourself as a “subject matter expert” who happens to have amazing communications and engagement skills. You don’t want to be known as a “public speaker”.
The nuance here is one of emphasis. You want to be recognized first and foremost as someone who is an expert on their content and an amazing storyteller who can bring their material to life and excite people with it.
People who tag themselves as great public speakers, on the other hand, tend to be limited in the content they have to share. They are satisfied with being orators and not experts on any one subject.
Let your content flow
Let your material “flow from your veins” flawlessly and be one with you. It’s more about having a conversation with people as opposed to delivering a message in a one-way transmit mode. A conversation has the benefits of being informal and casual and more likely to attract fans than any other presentation method. If you can achieve the ability to “stream” your material to your audience in this manner, you will be able to practice the actions mentioned above; if not, you will have to focus on your message content, perhaps depriving your audience of having a memorable moment with you.
Speaking success is not just about perfecting the mechanics of the discipline.
It’s about creating new rules of engagement where the prime objective is to connect with and dazzle every person in the audience.
Remember, every person you engage expects two things from you: to learn something new and be entertained while they are learning.
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