I’m kicking off 2016 with some basic insights into public speaking: how to be successful, how to dress for a speech, and how to put together a good speaking career. I’m also going to delve into some of the finer points of a great presentation. Following are seven ways to ensure that your public speaking outings are huge wins this year – ways that you may not have considered.
1.Try turning off the slideware. You are probably preparing slides as a primary way to get ready for your presentation. Here’s a thought: don’t use slides as wallpaper, visible all the time. Try using them sparingly, only when you have a compelling image, only when it really helps your speech. What to do the rest of the time? Put in a black slide, so that the audience can focus on you, and not split its attention between screen and speaker.
2. Keep track of where you are. One of the kindest things you can do as a speaker for an audience is to let it know where you are in the presentation. Number your points. Tell the audience what it is in for. Make your progress clear. Tell them you’re half way through, as in “Let me pause here for a moment at the half-way mark to see if you have any questions.” Note that I’m not a fan of agendas, unless you’re speaking for an entire day. But I am a fan of clear structure within the talk.
3.Find moments of passion. One of the best ways to keep a speech interesting is to think, not about your passion in general – everyone knows you need Passion – but rather to provide contrasting moment of calm and passion throughout the talk. Contrast is memorable; a harangue all begins to sound the same after a while. So give us variety by working yourself up to a fine sizzle at key moments – but not all the time.
4. Tell the audience something it doesn’t know – but don’t tell it everything you know. Audiences love to learn a little insider knowledge, or a factoid that adds a bit of depth and complexity to a well-known story. The radio personality Paul Harvey made a whole career out of telling “the rest of the story,” adding little-known facts to familiar tales of historical personages and famous people. But we only crave a little extra knowledge. Too many speakers dump way too much information on the audience. Restraint is key.
5. Build suspense by starting a story or promising an insight, and then delivering it later. This technique works for Dan Brown, and it will work for you. Introduce something – “In a minute, I’ll show you how to double your net worth in six months with a simple trick” – and then follow through on the promise. Don’t overuse this technique, and don’t commit the cardinal sin of upselling – promising six ways to increase your IQ if you buy this other course I’m selling – because that’s abusing the relationship between speaker and audience.
6. Indulge in some generosity. Compliment your rival. Give something away. Offer free help. Share the spotlight with an audience member. Give credit to others. There are many ways to be generous from the stage, and few speakers remember to be as generous as they can be as often as they should. You are the hero of the hour, but heroes play nicely with others. It’s part of how we define them.
7. Keep track of where you are and finish two minutes early. The key to finishing on time is – wait for it – rehearsal. Only with a real rehearsal can you know precisely where you are in the presentation and how long it will take. As the old saying has it, no one ever hoped that a speech would go longer. But you also don’t want to undershoot in a big way, lest you cause the meeting planners to have conniptions. I’ve seen way too many speakers ignore the giant countdown clock thoughtfully provided by the people who organize the conference – by either running short or over. Perfect is finishing two minutes early. Perfect it with rehearsal.
It’s your job as a speaker to master the basics. In addition, look to add subtleties to take your speaking to the next level.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS! Public Words is offering our first public conference in five years on creating and delivering a great presentation – with limited spaces. The date is April 22, and the location is Boston. Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you’re interested to save a space and find out more.