7 things great speakers do

April 22, 2015
speaker with audience

Most people fail as speakers simply because they don’t know the tips and tricks of great speech-giving. They don’t understand how to grab attention, connect thoughts, establish credibility, and deliver the goods in powerful, unforgettable ways. So never fear, anyone can give a masterful speech by simply following some basic tenets:

Know your audience. How many times have you sat through a talk and asked like Jim Carrey in “The Truman Show” as his fake wife promoted products to an unseen audience, “Who are you talking to?” Great speeches abide by the same first rule of great communications. First and foremost, know your audience and speak to it.

Open with a story. Confident speech-givers are great storytellers. They draw from their life experiences to connect with audiences. And, they often open with a story before even introducing themselves or thanking the host or audience. They use stories as tools to set entire talks. My greatest opening line ever: “Everything I know about public relations I learned from two twin brothers. One a pony-tailed extrovert and the other a barefoot introvert. Together, they taught me how effective storytelling can create a $185 million empire.” Got your attention yet?

Vector in on your audience from unexpected angles. What does “Seinfeld” have to do with Moore’s Law? A great deal when you are making the case for how quickly technology evolves. Jerry and the gang’s constant confusion would have been easily overcome in today’s always connected, Internet-enabled world. GPS would have delivered them to the bubble boy without getting lost. Cell phones would have stopped them from missing each other at the diner. A wireless home alarm system would have kept Kramer from burning down George’s girlfriend’s family cabin. Nothing seems more random and nothing is more illustrative than vectoring in on Moore’s Law for how fast technology evolves by applying it to a sitcom.

Pure energy. Leave the white knuckles at the podium and take the fight to the audience. Use movement to draw the eyes of the audience. Then punctuate your talks with powerful body language that draws in attention. Oscillate your voice and show passion and conviction. Energy is the currency of a great talk! Once during a talk, I set a line of six chairs down the center aisle of a venue. Throughout, I asked the audience to write out the six greatest challenges the company faced on cards that we placed on the six chairs. At the end of the talk, to everyone’s surprise, I had a collegiate hurdler, planted in the audience, rise up and successfully hurdle each chair. Campy? Perhaps. But one year later, everyone in the room remembered the six challenges and had spent the past year working to overcome them.

The sandwich works. After an anecdotal opening, tell them what you are going to tell them. Then return frequently to what you promised to tell them. And at the end, remind them of what you told them. The classic sandwich structure never fails.

Scrap the bulleted PowerPoints. Just once, try to replace each of your slides with a single, high-impact image. For laughs and giggles, I once replaced a client’s bullet that read, “the 800-lb gorilla,” with a full-screen image of an 800-lb gorilla. Searingly memorable.

Practice, we’re talking about practice. The best presenters I know practice, and practice again. And once they are comfortable, they practice one last time. It takes a lot of work to appear casual and impromptu. After all, it’s all about sincerity, and once you can fake that due to practice, you’re on your way to becoming a remarkable public speaker.

So you got it? Anyone can give a memorable talk. You just have to know some of the tips and tricks we train our clients to live by while in front of an audience.

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