Be a Better Speaker By Being N.A.K.E.D.
Date: December 13, 2015
Giving a talk in your birthday suit may have been what you thought this article was going to be about. Sorry to disappoint, but it isn’t. However we’ll show you how to strip down and dissect some key points on how to be a better speaker.
Of course I am not suggesting that you do your next talk or workshop without any clothes on, however as a keynote speaker it may be an idea to consider being N-A-K-E-D the next time you make a speech.
N – Normalise your speech.
What do I mean by normalising your speech? Let me explain. There will always be exceptions but the vast majority of people in any audience are “normal” people. They will probably have normal family lives, a normal job (even if it is specialised), they will eat normal food and watch the same tv programs as many other normal folks.
How many times have you listened to someone giving a talk or sat through a presentation and not really understood the point that the speaker was trying to get across? This probably isn’t because you are not clever enough to understand, but more likely that the presenter was making the topic too complicated.
Some speakers often forget this important point and make their talks and presentations complicated so as to impress their audience with their speaking prowess. Some speakers forget that the best talks are the ones that are simple to understand and engage the audience. Unless you are giving a technical talk on brain surgery to a group of brain surgeons (or similar) you really don’t need to be too technical as your audience will be made up of normal people.
A – Animate and Alternate.
No matter how interesting the topic is on which you are presenting, if you stand stationary for 45 minutes and talk in a monotone voice you will soon have your audience snoring in unison. Bring your talk to life by animating your body and alternating the tone of your voice.
Animating your body can be simple. You don’t need to make over-the-top gestures to be animated. You could simply come out from behind your lectern to emphasise certain points in your presentation. I once presented on a near empty stage. All it had on it, apart from myself, was a chair. Occasionally during my talk, I would go over and sit on the chair. It served no real purpose except that the audience had to move their focus as I walked over and sat down. Then when I had an important point I wanted to emphasize, I stood up quickly and moved to a different part of the stage. Simple but effective.
Alternate your voice. If you want to keep your audience engaged and interested, alter the tone of your voice. You should also experiment with the volume of your voice and pace at which you speak. This simple but effective change can really grab your audiences attention.
By animating your body and varying your voice, you will find your audience to be a lot more alert to what you are saying during your talk and remember the important points you made after your talk.
K – Know you topic inside out.
If you are asked to speak on a topic you know nothing about you have two main choices: do your homework and spend a lot of time researching and learning about the topic, or turn the speaking engagement down. Never agree to give a talk on a subject you don’t know much about. You don’t need to be an expert on the topic you are speaking on but you do need to know as much as, or more than the people you are speaking to. You will be caught out if you try to bluff your way through an ill prepared presentation.
Even if you feel you are fluent in what you are going to talk about, make sure you brush up on what you already know and rehearse all new material. It is very easy to spot a speaker who is not prepared for his or her talk and relies on his or her notes to get through.
E – Entertain your audience.
I am not suggesting that you crack jokes and break into song and dance during your speech, but what many speakers forget is that most audiences want to be entertained in some way.
Of course audiences will attend your keynote speech or presentation to learn, however they are also watching a performance. This may come as a shock but most top public, after dinner and keynote speakers are great performers. They speak on their topic with passion and know how to hold the attention of their audience by ‘performing’ and making sure their time is enjoyable, interesting and entertaining.
Top professional speakers know the importance of making sure their audience is entertained. Knowing their topic is taken for granted, so what top keynote speakers work hard on is their delivery so that their audience stays with them throughout their whole talk.
D – Deliver a memorable ending to your talk
The next time you go to the cinema try to eavesdrop on some of the chatter from the audience as they leave. “I didn’t expect that at the end” “Wow, so Bruce Willis was a ghost all along” “that was a great ending” “I didn’t understand the ending” ….. will be some of the comments you might hear.
Endings in movies (good or bad) are what are memorable. The same is true of talks, speeches and presentations. Of course there will be parts of your talk that people in your audience will remember, however the way they feel as they walk out of your talk is probably how they will remember their overall experience.
Endings are vital when it comes to remembering an experience. Go on holiday with a friend and have a fantastic time but have an argument on the last day and that argument is how you will remember the holiday. Have a terrible day at work but as you are leaving, your boss praises you for something and you will most likely remember that. When you go to a music concert the support act comes on at the start, not at the end because the promoter wants you to remember the headline act. And when the main act comes on they usually leave their best songs to near the end of their set. Why? because they know the power of making sure you leave on a high and singing their best songs. Be in the audience listening to a mediocre presentation with an amazing ending and you will leave feeling uplifted. However a great talk with a dull ending can leave you feeling a bit flat.
Your goal is to get people to come away from your talk wanting to tell the world how great you were. So give your audience an ending to your presentation that is memorable.
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