5 HACKS TO CRUSH PUBLIC SPEAKING
Whether or not you plan to be the next Tony Robbins, Martin Luther King, Les Brown or Gary Vaynerchuk, if you are or plan to be the leader of a successful company or startup the ability to speak effectively in public, on stage or in front of a crowd is an invaluable skill to possess.
Why is effective public speaking so important to any business leader or entrepreneur? It comes down to effective communication. Let’s face it, business is a human game, and if you can’t communicate with humans one on one or in a group environment then your business is sunk. As a leader your ability to convey your message, inspire a company of staff or pitch your product or a business to a VC, is what is going to make or break the future of your venture. Effective communication has been the linchpin of all successful business’ since before there was business. Let’s face it, not being able to effectively communicate to deliver a point or message is like trying to steer a ship without a rudder.
The good news is that by taking note and implementing these sometimes not so obvious hacks can crush your next keynote, address, speech or staff meeting.
1. SPEAK TO THEM NOT AT THEM.
This one might seem a little contradictory but it’s not. Speak to your audience as if you would speak to any other human in a normal conversation. Engage with them on a personal level, make them feel part of the conversation and on the same level as you. You want to make that one person in the crowd think as if they are the only one in the room. You don’t want to speak at them as if you are giving a speech (even though that’s exactly what you’re doing) because speeches can come off as lectures and the only people who ever gave you a lecture was your parents when you were younger, your teacher, or your wife when you spent 6 hours playing ‘Call of Duty’. Let’s face it, the people sitting their asses in those seats didn’t come here to experience a heavy dose of your verbal diarrhea. Converse with them, they’re human too.
2. BE THERE, NOT IN YOUR HEAD.
It’s all about presence. Be present, be there with them in the room. Don’t be thinking about last night’s episode of ‘Lost’ or if the cute girl on train ride in was checking you out or just checking out your bad hair cut. Be engaging with your audience, ask questions often, and actually listen to their responses, don’t be thinking about what you’re going to say next. Look them in the eye, again as if you’re speaking only to them. Let the audience feel your presence, if they do they will hang on to every word you’re saying reducing the risk of hearing the always undesirable sound of crickets. This point ties closely into the first one, if you’re present and engaging it will feel more like you’re talking to them not at them.
3. MAKE THEM LAUGH AS SOON AS YOU CAN.
Break up the stiffness of the occasion and make a joke or make them laugh. You want to get your audience to loosen up and be relaxed. If they’re having a good time, you’ll have a better time and the more likely they are to remember you long after they’ve gone home and watched another 50 motivational videos on YouTube. Don’t be afraid to crack that serious “I mean business” exterior and show them that you are a normal person, they will be able to relate to you and your message better. If the joke falls flat on it’s face you can always joke about how bad your joke was. That almost always get a chuckle or two.
4. DON’T BE AFRAID TO GO OFF TRACK.
Don’t be afraid to riff off script. If done right this can also make the whole thing seem more like human interaction and real rather than sound as if you’re reading from a teleprompter. It comes back to engagement and keeping their attention. A random side note or additional point to cement your message will add more value to your talk and your audience will appreciate it.
Just don’t go off on tangents and lose their attention. There is a difference between taking a side step and adding some additional value to a point or to engage better with your audience, and just babbling on like a 5 year old at show and tell. And don’t be afraid that you might lose track of where you are, if you’re not rambling and just adding a little context then it’s not likely and even if you do, you can always ask your audience. Trust me they’ll find it amusing (see point number 3) and make your presentation seem more authentic and organic (see point number 2).
5. KNOW YOUR STUFF, AND A BIT MORE.
This one goes without saying. You need to know your stuff, inside and out, back to front. And I’m going to go out on a limb here and assume you do, and that’s why people have come to hear you speak. But what many don’t realise is that you need to go one step further than just knowing your topic well. I know a lot more than most people would about cars, I know them inside and out, back to front, but that doesn’t mean I’m passionate about them or would feel the need to give a keynote address relating to anything to do with them. What I’m trying to say here is that more than just knowing your stuff, you have to be driven by what ever it is you’re speaking about, it’s what keeps you working and grinding. Ask me to give a speech about the problems with the modern educational school system and how we are forcing young people into an institution that is irrelevant in this evolved world of technology and entrepreneurship and prepares them to be another cog in the government controlled machine called society. That I can talk about with conviction!
And at the end of the day when all is said and done, you have one fundamental advantage playing to your favour every time you give a keynote, a speech, an address or even just talking in front of your staff and next Tuesdays sales meeting, and that is this…..
They don’t know what you’re going to say until after you say it, so in the end you can’t really screw it up. And whatever you do, don’t picture them naked. Contrary to what many may have told you, picturing a room full of complete strangers in nothing but their birthday suits is not a good idea.