“There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and, lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”
What do we tend to focus on most as a speaker? Our material. What to say, how to say it.
But the reality is, before you can send your message, you first have to establish a connection with your audience. Here are three ways to create a bond with your future fans:
1. Get to it.
Cut the corporate speak.
DO NOT start out by telling the audience “a little about your company.”
(You’ve heard this at the opening of many a presentation…”Before I get started with today’s presentation, I want to tell you a little bit about [company name.] We were founded X years ago. We’re a full-service [business type], located right here in [city name], we specialize in [laundry list of service offerings.] Ughhh.)
What kind of harm can this do? More than you think!
When you fail engage your audience at the beginning, they mentally ‘check out’ until you get to something relevant to them. But the big risk is that they become so absorbed in their email inbox/Twitter feed/text chat at the beginning of your talk, they never engage with you. You’ve lost them forever. *Sad face.*
Your audience wants to be educated and entertained. Get into the good stuff right away.
Here are a few stellar ways to get started:
- Tell a story that’s concrete and real-world. (Not real as in exactly how it happened to you; real as in ‘could potentially happen in real life, but some of the details are altered/eliminated to make it work better in the presentation.’)
- Ask a question.
- Introduce a problem
- Share a quote or a statistic
2. Stick to three points
I know that you’ve got mountains of material and you are so damned excited to share it all with your audience that you exhaust and overwhelm them. (I may or may not be speaking from experience here.)
It’s natural to want to share all your good stuff and to feel as though you are cheating the audience by not downloading every. single. thing. you know to them.
But I want you to flip that thinking.
Your audience doesn’t know as much about your topic as you do, and it’s your duty to give them only what they can reasonable remember and put to use immediately.
Realizing this has been painful to me. When I’m speaking, I’m so eager to give people every strategy, tool and trick in the book, I nearly leap out of my skin. C’mon, I think, “I can give them a framework, proof that it works through my stories, a list of the can’t miss resources, and a litany of mistakes to avoid.”
Ahhhhhhhh! Audience overload!
The way that I’ve reshaped my talks is to think of my major premise.
Then, I talk about the three elements of the famous in your field process. Instead of packing the talk with information about my three elements, I’m using more stories and a few targeted exercises for them to get emotionally involved and get a result on the spot.
I’m slashing the material with a machete. (Even though it hurts me. Bad.)
Here’s a quick tip:
Save most of your advanced information for the Q & A session. Someone who already has a strong foundation in your topic will likely ask a question and you can wow that person an answer that’s appropriate to his or her level of knowledge, while subtly letting your audience know that you’ve got advanced level material, too.
3. Watch what works.
During your talk, pay attention to your audience and notice what they respond to.
Did you get unexpected guffaws from a throwaway line? Add that to your stash to use next time, too!
Is that dude in the back smiling and nodding along with you or did he pick up his phone to text today’s lunch plans with his friends?
If you see the tops of heads, inject a little energy by asking the audience to do something:
“Raise your hand if you’ve ever [something that relates to your next point.]”
“Say the first word that pops into your head when you think about [something related to your topic.]”
The best outcome of using these audience engagement exercises is that once the audience members realize that you are going to be engaging them, they remain involved, anticipating the next exercise.
Your fame boosting assignment:
Like a lot of public speaking advice, these tips are solid gold for networking events, company or client meetings and everyday conversations, too.
Pick just of one these tips and put it to work today! Board room or ballroom, it’s up to you to steal the show. Where ever you go.