If you’re a speaking pro, you will have noticed that the competition is getting tougher every year. If you speak in other ways than as a career, but you care just as passionately about excellence, then the general raising of the excellence ante in the speaking world will affect you too.
So it’s time to strengthen your act, and here are five ways to do so that you may not have thought about.
1. Figure out who should be in your audience – and who shouldn’t.
If you think your message is made for every human on the planet, you haven’t worked hard enough yet to focus your speech and sort out who should be sitting in front of you when you speak. Understanding your audience better than they do themselves is, in many ways, the essential first step to speaking excellence. That means figuring out who your message isn’t meant for, and why.
2. Find the humor in your most serious moments, and the serious in your funniest moments.
Of course, you need to take your topic and yourself seriously. That’s what it means to be a pro, or a dedicated amateur. But even the most serious topics need to be leavened with humor. So find the funny in the heartbreak and give the audience a break part of the way through your speech. And then flip your insights on their heads, if you’re primarily a humorous speaker, and figure out how to end strong, leaving the audience with a lump in its collective throat.
3. Find the universal in the detail and bring the universal to life with the one telling detail no one can forget.
Knowing your topic thoroughly enough to be a genuine thought leader means drowning yourself in the detail, swallowing the ocean, and taking every ounce in. Then, it’s your mission to evaluate all of that detail and bring the audience the key points they can’t do without. You don’t know a subject until you try to teach it to others, the old saying goes, and its true in this specific sense. You should be able to construct an entire theory of your specialty from one or two items – and also have the specific example ready for the audience that will render a good deal of your explanation unnecessary.
4. Develop Speeches #2 and #3.
Once you figure out your core message and audience, then it’s time to develop the closely related messages for similar audiences. A sure sign of someone who doesn’t know what he’s doing is advertising that you’ll speak to anyone about anything – the 25-speech topic wonder. But there are spin-offs from your main talk that makes sense for other related groups. Find them and interesting things will happen to your original talk and audience, too.
5. Figure out whom you could share the stage with – and learn from them.
If you could pick someone in your field to argue, comment, or go head-to-head with, who would that someone be? Study their content and their style, not for the purposes of copying them, or to make yourself anxious, but in order to understand the field more fully. What do they know and you don’t? What do you know that they have missed? Going on a Busman’s Holiday may be the best few days you ever spend.
I hope some of these perspectives help you gain new insight in your development and thinking about your area of expertise. Go for it – and leave the competition in the public speaking dust.