Paul Robinson is India's leading motivational keynote speaker, author and business strategist. As a professional keynote speaker I have worked with over 300 plus clients in over a dozen countries addressing to over a quarter million executives in the last few years. Over the years I have polished the skills of my persuasion skills and podium communication to engage my audience and hold their attention for hours and some times even for few days. Since I receive regular emails from people who seek tips to become a motivational speaker, I thought I would share some professional insights that will perhaps boost your career as well.
- Start with a bang.
People will not pay attention to the usual stuff. To gain attention, we need to interrupt that pattern. Remember that everyone is in some sort of hypnosis, some kind of preoccupation; you need to wake them up at first. May be you can begin with a statement that will grab the audience attention – something that will violate their conventional knowledge and belief. See how Newspaper articles begin with a headline. News broadcasts begin with a teaser. Your job at the beginning of a talk is to capture attention and convince your audience that it’s in their interest to listen. All’s well that begins well.
You can also begin with a question and your speech can be tailored as an answer to that question. Don’t beat around the bush. Come straight to the point and construct the speech around one big idea. Tell them what you are going to tell them.
- Connect with your audience
Make sure what you are going to say is important for the audience. It should be about meeting the goals and aspirations of your audience, solving their problems and concerns. The speech should not be about you bragging about yourself.
Capturing the full attention of the audience is important. Therefore the speech must be about them, their needs, their pains and their well-being. Sometimes confessing something personal about yourself can make the audience feel connected with you. Being vulnerable can make you more trust worthy.
- Speak with authority
If you are not an authority on the subject, then don’t bother to take up assignments that known nothing much about. Always speak with conviction and authority, just as to remind the audience that you know what you are talking about. Instead of theorizing your speech, be practical about it and take a common sense approach. To tell a story, you must own the story. Don’t talk about somebody else’s taxy cab experience.
- Be a storyteller.
Facts tell, but stories sell. Story telling is a great tool to get into your topic. Use anecdotes and personal experiences to build your story. When speaking, your objective should be to give the audience a gift of something that you have learned. If you don’t have many personal experiences relevant to the topic, then give good case studies and stories of people your audience can connect with. Some times great audio visual is good to elaborate a point. Make sure your stories are not dragging or boring. Don’t read ‘whats up’ circulated messages and try to make it as something that happened to you. If there is nothing interesting to tell, then don’t tell at all. Speak conversationally like you are direct with the audience.
- Keep the momentum
Make sure that every new bit of information you provide builds on what came before. Each idea should lead to another until you are able present the whole idea in full. You can present a speech like a pitch, when you present the problems first and suggest the solutions last. You can also present it like a case how a lawyer might argue. But refrain from being a pulpit preacher. The attention span of listeners is short. They don’t like an idea too dragged or too short. Make sure evidences support you arguments. Overall, the speech should be a mix of anecdotes, stories, insights, humor, facts and case studies.
- Make actionable points
The purpose of a speech is to help the audience to decide or to take action on some great ideas. Speech should not only be about providing information or knowledge, but also about applying that knowledge. The purpose of every speech and presentation is to cause the audience to make a decision that will transform them in some measures.
Make actionable points, saying, “Here’s what I would like you to do”, “here is something you can try from now on’ etc. Give the audience some actionable points that they will take back to their homes or offices. Make the message of your speech stick with the audience. A strong message can be repetitive, till the audience finally gets the ‘take away’ message. Make it sticky; make it memorable by helping them resonate with some words from your session.
- Make it emotional.
The speech must make the audience go through a variety of emotions from being surprised, funny, persuasive, motivated and energetic. Opening a speech with a joke or funny story is the conventional wisdom, but nothing falls flatter than inappropriate humor. Use humor where it is appropriate, but if humor is not your style, don’t force yourself. After all, a speaker is different from a comedian. Humor can lighten the audience.
The speech should not be monotonous. It must have variations in tonality, style, audiovisuals and narration. Your voice is your most powerful and important asset while you are on the stage. Understand that how you say your speech is as important as what you say. The biggest mistake most speakers make is a failure to slow down or use pauses. Silence and space between words allows for emphasis and lets your audience catch up with your ideas. Some times a thinker’s pause before you drop an idea bomb is apt.
- Audience participation
Keeping audience interaction makes the speech more alive and participative. You could ask the audience if they agree with your points or ask them to raise hands if they can connect with your idea or experience. Shoot a direct question or request them to share an experience. During my keynotes and seminars I give away copies of my books or CDs to encourage the audience participation. Sometimes you have to bribe your audience to come out of their shells and open up. Also engaging the audience with some exercises or tests can keep the session livelier. If the speech is longer than 45 minutes, incorporating some fun activities will keep the audience engaging and attentive.
- Stick to your time. Some speakers will go on until they bore the audience to death. You should stop talking before your audience stops listening. Most of the presentations or speeches takes more time than expected. If you have an hour for presentation, be ready with content for 50 minutes. Ask someone to give you a sign 10 minutes in advance to wrap up your points, incase you are not able to stick to your allotted time. Allot five minutes for questions and answering at the end. Always ask your audience takeaway messages.
- Be energetic.
The whole attention of the audience is on the speaker. If the speaker is energetic and alive, the audience will be the same. The energy of the speaker infectiously rubs on to the delegates in any meeting hall. If you are not designated as a superior voice to your audience, certain pessimistic air in the auditorium is usual. How you transform the scenic audience to your most attentive ones is the captivating charisma of the speaker. Great speakers generate so much of energy that can fill the meeting halls. By subconsciously ‘mirroring’ the speaker, an audience state can be altered. Moreover the audience will interpret everything a speaker does: they read your face, your inner rhythm, your posture, voice, and stance. They take in your nonverbal communication as much as the words you utter. Sometimes it’s not what you say but how you say it matters. Make good eye contact by moving them across the room and lock the eyes with as many people as you can. Use your body to drive your points as much as you use the slides. Use elaborate hand gestures to emphasize size, shape, direction, or to make a point. Your motions will feel extreme, but your audience is typically further away, so grand gestures will only keep people engaged and help them visualize your point. If you watch my youtube videos, you will see me literally throwing myself all over the satge. Do not stay stationary behind a podium. Use your entire presentation space, and make sure you move with purpose and command the stage. You can exude a lot of energy by moving around.
- Develop your own style
You don’t need to copy anybody or pretend to be somebody you are not. Be at your most authentic self, be knowledgeable, comfortable, pleasant and approachable. Develop your own content and don’t follow anyone in particular. There are so many great speakers out there, you can learn from most of them. Each will have something unique to offer. Do not memorize an entire speech. You might be able to deliver one signature speech by memorizing but on other occasions you will sound quite different and unappealing.
I have never delivered a memorized speech in my career. That’s also because I am pretty bad at it. Before I speak, I try to know the subject extremely well that every cell in my body can speak with utmost conviction, because I believe in my content first.
You may not be the perfect speaker but by learning from experience you will polish your skills and get hold of a style you are more likely to be comfortable with. Watch your own-recorded speeches, and you can become a better judge of what you can deliver and how to make it better. Great speakers always set a high standard and they constantly work hard on improving their content and delivery style. They also mature with age – think of Jim Rohn, Dr. Wayne Dyer, Denis Waitley or Brian Tracy.
- End the speech on a high note.
You begin with a bang and you also end with a bang. Your closing remarks should be the high point of your speech. Tell them what you have already told them. You will not only summarize the whole speech but also point out the actionable points here. The last 30 seconds of your speech must send people out energized and fulfilled. The last bits must be inspirational to help the audience take some serious action.