Revolutionize Your Public Speaking 10 Quick Tips to Give the Speech of Your Life
A few times a year, I am invited to speak on leadership at a variety of events. I love to share what I am passionate about, and I enjoy public speaking. Today I want to share with you a few lessons I have learned that have greatly improved my ability to deliver inspirational material to an audience. I hope these 10 quick tips will help revolutionize your public speaking as well.
A 10-Point Checklist
- Don’t just give a great speech; solve a problem for your audience. One time while attending a lecture at a prestigious institution, the speaker was putting me to sleep. I wondered how that could be. I paid a lot of money to be here. So I spent the rest of the time analyzing what made this talk so incredibly yawn-producing. The issue was simple, really. He was talking about a subject the audience was not struggling with, something for which no one was seeking answers. The most important principle for speaking is to know your audience. Literally, research those who will be in attendance. The more you know about your audience, the more accurately you can predict what they need or what they struggle with. People will sit on the edge of their seats if you are addressing an area of need for them.
- How much time do you need in order to prepare your presentation? For a keynote speech, the formula professional speakers use requires that you prepare one hour for each minute you intend to speak. Yes, one hour. So for a 45 minute talk you should prepare 45 hours. Who has this kind of time? That’s why you must begin preparing as soon as you can. If you are like me, it is practically impossible to afford this kind of ratio. However, I often remind myself of this formula if I begin feeling anxious for spending a lot of time preparing. It reminds me it’s okay to make a sizable investment. For me, a 10 hour minimum seems to be comfortable. However, if you have the time, and really want to do a good job, you can go for the full 1 hour to 1 minute ratio.
- No screens please. Can you imagine the famous Greek orator Demosthenes, or Winston Churchill, or Martin Luther King interrupting one of their famous speeches to point something out to you on a PowerPoint screen? No way. These speakers owned the stage. They made their presence felt. They were in the moment. Every breath they took, every emotion they felt, connected them with their audience. Now, if you are giving an instructional talk, you may want to have a screen to help convey your information. Personally, I’d rather hand out a written aid, so when people look up at me, I have no competition behind me. Many effective talks, like TED talks for example, are given with the use of a screen. You must decide what is most appropriate for your presentation on a case-by-case basis . On the whole, remember that with the introduction of a screen, or anything else on the stage for that matter, the attention of the audience will not be fully yours. Don’t hide yourself behind a podium for the same reason. Think of yourself as a stage performer in a play. You want to be fully accessible because people not only want to hear your words; they also want to see you.
- Involve your audience. I am a little amused when I go to church and the Pastor says something like, “Look to your neighbor and tell them, ‘You have hope in Jesus.’” Other speakers in different settings may say, “Repeat after me,” and give an important point they want the audience to remember. I acknowledge the attempt to involve the audience, but we have to make a greater connection any time it’s appropriate. It can be risky to include people in a live setting, however if you really want to connect, you have to take a risk. Think of creative ways to engage them. It takes planning and forethought. One time, I brought four people onstage with me. (Remember to never coerce anyone, as it makes everyone feel uncomfortable.) So in the middle of my talk, I asked these volunteers to apply what I was teaching for about five minutes. They were role playing in essence. It was a big hit! People were laughing, and simultaneously, learning more. Everyone was engaged in what I was saying when they saw their friends struggling to find the words to apply what we were learning.
- Rehearse. This may seem funny, but I actually rehearse a few parts of my speech in front of a mirror, especially the first six minutes and the conclusion. I want my body language, my tone of voice, and the words I choose to be conveyed just right. I rehearse the key elements of my talk several times until I feel comfortable that I will remember what I want to say.
- Be prepared. Consider taking these things with you. If the items you need are not readily available, it will rattle you before you even get up to speak.
*A clock. I put my iPhone on airplane mode, set my backward timer, and place it on the podium. Make sure your phone is charged.
*Accessories. If you plan to use your computer or PowerPoint, take an extension cord, and an adapter if you use a Mac.
*Business cards. Have them on hand when you meet people before and after your presentation.
*Be on time. By on time, I mean at least 30 minutes early, preferably 45 minutes to 1 hour. There is nothing worse than getting into an unforeseen situation and having to rush to get to your speaking engagement on time.
- Finish on time (or early). Respect people’s time. No one likes to be held over, particularly if you are at an event with other speakers. As amazing as your speech will be, you would do well to finish five minutes early. It’s not easy to do.
- Remember your passion. I keep these words in front of me in the hours before my speech and read them over and over. I read them again right before I step onstage. An audience likes to hear a passionate speaker, and they like to hear about topics the speaker is passionate about. People don’t want a lecture from a professor (even if you are a professor or a lecturer). They want someone on fire to light them on fire. Don’t speak merely to dole out information. Tell people how your life was radically changed and how what you have to share can change theirs too. Feel it! Own the stage. Take them on a great journey with you.
- Make jokes. Someone recently told me, “An audience mainly wants to be entertained. And between jokes, they want to learn a few things.” I don’t consider myself a particularly funny person, but as best as I can, I convey funny stories and comical events along my journey.
- Follow up. Your role as the speaker does not end the minute you step off the stage. Ask for feedback from the organizers of the event and the audience when possible. Thank those who invited you, and be available when you can to help anyone who wants more information about you or your topic.
Finally, if you are preparing to speak, or even if you speak regularly, I highly recommend the book Talk Like Ted.
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