Remember that one speaker at that talk you attended where you were just riveted, inspired, totally moved during and after the talk?
Remember how it felt like they were talking to just you, in a strange way? How it felt like you sort of knew them after they spoke, even though you'd never actually met them before?
How did that happen… all of that, in one public speaking presentation from some stage (or front of the room) with hundreds (or dozens or a handful) of people in the room?
That feeling of connection is one of the magic ingredients in truly powerful, change-making public speaking. And you can create it, too.
1. Learn everything about your audience possible before you craft your presentation.
If this group gathers for a specific purpose- – like say, knitting – then read the knitting blogs. Talk to knitters you know. Schedule an exploratory call with the meeting organizer for the purpose of learning as much as you can about knitters, particularly this group of knitters. Get a clear sense of what kinds of things matter to knitters.
2. Craft your presentation for that audience, purely.
Before you launch into your presentation on, say, How to Market Your Knitted Hats, be sure you persuade your audience to listen to you. Your driving question here: Why should they care? Ask yourself that question, then share that answer in the very early parts of your presentation. You'll say things like, “Did you know that, according to an article in USA Today, Etsy – the entrepreneurial crafter's online paradise – grew 100% in 2009? A time when businesses are failing miserably all around us! This is evidence for the tremendous market desire for handmade goods.” Take it even more into their domain: “If you search “knitting for profit” in Google, you will discover stories of highly successful businesses created by knitters selling their wares – stories such as Yokoo Gibran who makes $140,000 a year from her knitting business.”
See where I'm going with this? Every single thing you say, every story you tell, should be intended for this audience specifically. They'll be riveted.
3. Speak to only one person at a time while you present.
In my college classes I tell students that my #1 anxiety decreasing technique is direct and engaged eye contact. Inevitably there are a few students who argue that is the worst thing for their anxiety. While I am reluctant to dismiss anyone's feelings, I must say that this feels very unlikely to me. Engaged eye contact means you are listening and speaking simultaneously, and therefore – for that moment – it is just the two of you in conversation. In fact, an entire presentation can be done this way. Hundreds of people in your audience, and all you are speaking to at any one moment is one person. After that engaged moment you move on to another face, another engaged moment. It's really a beautiful, peaceful way to present.
I dare you to try it. Please tell me how it goes in the comments below.
4. Listen attentively – and respond thoughtfully – during your presentation.
This piggybacks considerably off of the previous point on presenting to one person and the whole focus on engaged eye contact. This is a conversation you are having, even as you are the official “speaker.”
Watch facial expressions, they will guide you in creating a brilliant presentation that your audience will love. If you see a grimace, take a quick survey of the audience – there's a reasonably good chance that others will have a similar message for you. If you wanted that grimace (for example, your knitting folks might make icky faces at the thought of machine crafted yarn products taking over the handmade market), then you know that all is right in your collective world. If that grimace comes at a time when you expect a warm fuzzy response, there has likely been a miscommunication (or you guessed wrong about what feels warm and fuzzy to this audience, which is also possible – and fixable to some degree, more on that in another post.)
5. Share stories – yours, theirs and others.
Personal stories are powerful in that they can establish your credibility (“Fourteen years ago, when I started my knitting business…”), call forth action-inducing emotions (“…I knitted one pair of baby booties for every 10 sweaters I sold. I donated those booties to a local home for pregnant teens and warmed over 1,000 little teeny feet…), and engage listeners more effectively than any other method of information sharing. That said, your audience wants to know that you aren't the only person you think is interesting enough to talk about (there's a song about this, which always launches in my head when I talk about this tip) so be sure you tell stories about other people as well. Draw stories from the news, from clients (of course, respecting their privacy as appropriate), from associates and friends. Learn to be a fabulous storyteller (that link goes to a great book somewhat indirectly on the subject) and it will serve your speaking brilliantly.
So, there you go. Implement all of these moves and I guarantee that you will blow your audience away (assuming, of course, that you have great content and an engaging delivery style.) It is rare that an audience gets this kind of razor-sharp preparation. They will LOVE you. (And not so incidentally, you will truly add value to their lives with your talk. Which is, of course, what it's all about.)
What do you think? What experiences do you have that inspired love from your audience?
Thank you, Suchitra Prints, for the happy bead heart image.