Frequently when people think about or prepare for a public speaking engagement, they consider all the important moving parts they must work with: Engaging Topic, Audience Specific, Context and Setting, as well as Avoid Jargon. Often people become a bit overwhelmed at the prospect of keeping all of these elements balanced in an effort to bring together a good presentation. I do not want to suggest that these elements are not important — because they are — for every speech; however, my goal is to highlight an additional attribute that transforms a good speech to a great speech — YOU! At the heart of public speaking is human connection and interaction or Speaking Your Authentic Self. Although an informative power point, revealing best practices, and compelling statistics add an element of professionalism and expertise, you also have to bring YOU to the table. So, how do you transform from a good to a great speaker or Speak Your Authentic Self? Here are a few suggestions for your consideration:
Bring Your Personality: This suggestion is both the easiest and the hardest. If we are a bit nervous or tense, we may take comfort in relying on our prepared notes and just plough through our presentation. This is the best way to bore an audience to tears, while also checking your personality at the door. Consider preparing a “key word” outline with bullet points to speak from. This will provide you some flexibility to speak extemporaneously. We interact spontaneously throughout our daily lives, it’s natural. Speaking in this way, provides a way for the audience to see your creative, innovative, enterprising, or humorous side. It may feel uncomfortable in the beginning, however, as you speak extemporaneously, and working from a key word outline more often, you will find this to be a much more engaging speaking style than the the more rigid fully written speech. Bringing Your Personality is one of the best ways to speak your authentic self.
Start Strong: A great starting point for your presentation or speech is as important as Bringing Your Personality in my book. If you’re having a challenging time developing a strong starting point, consider staring with an engaging story, staggering statistic, or interesting quote. Any of these strategies can hook your audiences right away. As you transition to the content of your speech or presentation, be sure to illustrate for the audience how your story, quote or statistic are related to your overall presentation. I’ve seen plenty of speeches and presentations with a great start and a poor start. What I can say is this: If you start strong and the audiences finds your intriguing right away — they are generous with their time and attention. If you a poor start — the audience loses patience with their speaker quickly. So go for it and try starting your speech in a new way and see what type of response you get from you audience. You may surprise yourself!
Someone I think is a great speaker for these reasons is Michelle Obama. I always get the impression while watching Michelle Obama speak or give interviews is that she is just as she represents herself. I imagine if it were just she and I face-to-face, our interactions would seem familiar. One key reason I believe Michelle Obama is such a compelling speaker is her ability to be personable while speaking to a large crowd. She let’s the audience see her personality and that is what so many people admire about her–including me! Check out this great YouTube video of the First Lady speaking to high school students about being teased as a young girl. I think you’ll see what I mean.