12 October 2015

Want to hear something strange? Studies show that more people would rather die than give a speech. That’s right: more people would rather vanish off the face of the earth than make the most of an amazing opportunity to influence people with their ideas. For my money, there’s nothing as exciting as the moment you stun your audience into silence; that moment when the power of your speech means you can hear a pin drop in a crowd.

So let’s look at what it takes to turn an audience into putty in your hands.

By now you’re probably one of the millions of people who have watched Steve Jobs’ legendary 2005 speech to Stanford University graduates. What makes this such a power speech? Simple: Jobs knew his audience. He crafted a clear and simple message that they could relate to. You might think that the audience is obligated to pay attention just because you’re on stage. You would be dead wrong. Talk down to your audience and they’ll be whipping out their phones for a game of Candy Crush before you’ve gotten through a cue card. So take a leaf from Steve’s book and give your audience the respect they deserve!

Another thing, every great speech needs a great story. You might be presenting the driest since the last Sahara rainfall record but with the right story to illustrate it, your audience will still be glued to their seats. The thing that takes a talk from passable to powerful is the ability to stop people in their tracks whether you’re in a concert hall or the canteen. That’s where your stories become your best friend, doing all the really heavy lifting for you. How do you choose the right story? The rule of thumb is to make sure that they’re relevant and compelling to you first. If they don’t hold your attention (even after the tenth time you’ve practiced them), chances are nobody else will be interested either.

Speaking of practice, just do it! 

Know your speech like you know your drive home. Oh, and not just your words either; your delivery is vital. Your tone, your body language; your audience will pick up on every one of these. There’s no room for even the smallest drop in your confidence. The first shake of your voice or the tiniest drop of your shoulders and you’ve lost them; show them that the stage is yours; that you own that space, and you’ll have them riveted to your words right the way through.

Which is where the next tip comes in: love your topic. 

Yes, you can fake it to make it but only so far. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out that it’s much easier to look comfortable if you are comfortable. When you care about your topic, being yourself comes naturally.  When you can be yourself, people listen up when you speak up.

Finally, don’t fall into the techno trap! Nothing kills a speech faster than shoddy media. As soon as a dodgy PowerPoint slide goes up, your audience has stopped taking you seriously and there’s no recovering from that. If you’re going to media, you’d better make damn sure that it’s flawless and the design is exceptional. 

Try these tips for your next talk and I guarantee you’ll have your audience by the balls from the first word.

How about sharing my tips with colleagues and friends on Facebook and Instagram – isn’t that what friends are for? Oh, and let’s connect @DanzShapiro, I always love to hear what others are up to #daniellashapiro.com #DS.comTribe