Five More Quick Speaker Success Secrets

Mar 27 2014, 2:27pm CDT | by

I’ve seen a lot of speeches recently, coached and written a good number more for clients, and given a few of my own. Here’s the rest of my latest list of good speaking habits, dos and don’ts, and lessons from the front, five more this time, for a total of ten in two posts. And that’s the extent of my math skills. So here goes, in no particular order except perhaps passion.

1. Talk to the Back of the Room, But No Farther. Too many speakers, blinded by the bright lights, talk only to the folks directly in front of them. It’s both physical and psychological – if you talk to the back of the room, everyone will feel included. If you talk only to the front of the room, you will cut out the back half of the room and they won’t care about your speech. But don’t shout to reach those nice, friendly people in the back – another common failing – let the expensive audio equipment do its job.

2. Limit Your Fake Audience Interactive Moments. Everyone knows these days that audience interaction, like storytelling, is a good idea. But there are lots more people making excuses, or undertaking fake interaction, than are actually doing it well. Good audience interaction is difficult.

So limit your fake audience interaction – “Show of hands, how many of you have a smart phone?” I’m going to go out on a limb here and say no more than 3 show-of-hands moments per speech. The reason is that it’s OK as a warm up to real interaction, but used repeatedly and it becomes a way of treating the audience like children. The audience will start to resent the endless polling if there’s nothing more to the interaction than that.

If you’ve got a very large audience, real interaction becomes riskier and more difficult to do. The audience will feel intimidated about speaking out in front of thousands of other people. So there a few more show-of-hands moments are fine. (Although rock stars manage to do it…..But then the payoff in bragging rights for the fan is huge….)

3. Don’t Steal Other People’s Stuff Without Attribution. I saw a speech recently – the speaker will remain nameless – whose entire speech consisted of clichés stolen from other speakers. The climax of the speech was an exhortation from the speaker to the audience to “think outside the box.” Murder is never justified, but if I’d had a gun….Don’t do it; figure out what you know, what’s yours, and share that with the audience. If you don’t have anything original to say, don’t speak. I believe that the compact between speaker and audience inherently carries with it an obligation for the speaker to share something original.

4. Don’t Sell from the Stage. I realize that many speakers take on, say, a breakout session for little or no compensation – perhaps a free pass to the conference and travel expenses – with the understanding that they can market their wares from the stage. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be explicit. If you’re authentic about what you do, and share something original and interesting, people will ask you afterwards to connect with them and business will result. I believe that selling explicitly violates the speaker-audience understanding and makes it impossible for the audience to hear you as anything other than a shill.

5. Don’t Play It Safe. Speaking is difficult, and demands a lot from a speaker even if said speaker doesn’t try very hard and doesn’t connect with the audience. So you might as well go for it. Making the goal of a speech not to offend the audience is not a good enough reason to talk to that audience. Standing up and withholding your passion is not a good enough reason to talk to that audience. Giving an audience only half of your best is not a good reason to talk to that audience.

If you’re going to go to the bother, then go for it. Go for broke. Change the world. Anything less is a waste of your time and theirs.

A footnote from the last post – what do you do instead of Q n A at the end? If you’ve got, say, an hour, stop at 20 minutes and 40 minutes for 3-5 minutes of Q n A. Then, stop 7 minutes from the end, take 3 – 5 minutes more of Q n A, and then wrap up, so that you control the close, with the remaining 2 – 4 minutes.

Source: Forbes Business


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