Have you ever been at a loss for words at an event or painfully aware that you are reading your speech word for word? Problems confront speakers all the time but what does it take to make a successful speech?
I’ve already written an introduction blog entitled “7 Speaking Tips” - it proved to be one of my most read blogs. You can see it under “Blogs” on my website www.denise-becker.com. It explains how to feel comfortable and avoid pitfalls.
This blog takes you one step further.. and makes you professionally polished.
1. PAUSE GETS APPLAUSE.
You don’t naturally pause when speaking but use this one tip and you will captivate audiences. Here are two “Why’s”:
a) it creates engagement with your audience... pauses create emotion and expectation Example:
“(pause) ...we suddenly realized what had happened (pause) ...we had given up our only chance of keeping the customer (pause)...”
It’s a powerful dramatic effect and is used often by actors.
b) Pauses are one of the best ways to avoid using FILLER words - um’s, ah’s, so’s, and’s. When you read the following two sentences, decide which one you find more effective:
“Today, Roger and Jane are marrying and it means a great deal to me to be their best man”
“Today, Roger and Jane are marrying. (pause - count 1 and 2) It means a great deal to me to be their best man”
It’s not the fact you broke one sentence into two, although a period does indicate a pause. The length of the pause is the key. Don’t pause for too long.. the audience will drift off.
Take a look at these two openings of a speech on insects, which do you think would engage an audience more?
“Thanks everyone.. it’s great to be in Calgary.. big shout out for Calgary! In fact, funny thing happened on the way here...”
“Do you know the insect which will be wiped off the face of the earth unless we act now? Clue: you may have killed one recently.”
I admit it, I’ve used humour to start a speech and some people came up to me afterwards to tell me they loved it... but they didn’t say anything about the speech. It can take away from your subject matter. I’ll put it simply: unless you’ve been hired as a comedian, don’t start with comedy. Go straight into your speech.
Start with a question that gets your audience thinking.. one way to start is with “Imagine!” “Imagine, a world without insects!”.
Make a big impression and summarize back to your original premise - it can make you the speaker audiences want to see again. When speakers wrap their speeches up quickly it can make an audience turn off and just want to get out of there. Here are two summaries I have imagined for demonstration purposes:
“I only have two minutes left and here are some points I will quickly cover...”
“Lastly, I want to leave you with one thought: insects are dying at a rate exceeding all other animals on the earth... what will you do when you next see a wasp? Kill it because you’re afraid of a tiny animal?... (pause) or make a difference to your environment?”
Great CLOSINGS make you memorable.
4. THE FILLING IN THE SANDWICH
The middle/body of your speech gives the audience in depth analysis, a story emphasizing your premise or evidence of your introduction. Three sub-points are plenty but you can have more.
If you feel you are running short of time, be aware these are items you can potentially cut which will avoid you going over time or, even worse, losing your powerful ending. If you are going over time, try:
“I have more information on this. If you leave your email on the sheet that’s circulating, I will share that information and more. Rest assured, I respect your privacy. Now, I want to summarize with these thoughts...”.
5. WALK and TALK
Here’s the best tip I have learned and I’m going to share it with you. Move!
Lance Miller is the epitome of a WORLD CLASS speaker. He is the winner of the 2005 Toastmaster International Speaker contest and you feel total energy when watching him . Watch this video.
Lance move across the stage with his storyline, it’s deliberate and it’s captivating. He TRANSITIONS with words... tells the story of what is happening as he moves. He stops at points in history, moves to the future and stops there. He comes back to the middle of the stage to talk to the audience and make his point. Brilliant. Try watching it with the sound off.. you can see the movement. It’s very difficult to do, has to be well planned and rehearsed.
Your audience wants to feel good. Even if you are giving an obituary, take time at appropriate moments to smile - and I do mean appropriate moments.
7. “I HAVE A QUESTION!”
I would suggest if you want to take questions, leave them until CLOSE to the end. If your speech is rehearsed then it’s imperative you aren’t interrupted. You have to re-engage your audience at the end of your speech. You have to take back control.
“I see there are more questions. I will stay here to personally answer them when I have finished. Here are some final thoughts that I’m going to leave you with...”
Think ahead of your speech about how much time you will allow for questions and how much time you need for your final points.
When people flounder at the podium or during a talk, it’s gut-wrenching - I love writing blogs like this to help you. In-person coaching is invaluable and there are many good professional coaches. Write to me if could like me to coach you on your next speech.