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Holding a speech, giving a keynote, participating in a panel, or presenting in a meeting are all forms of public speaking. I would go as far as saying what we see on a daily basis on TikTok, Instagram, and YouTube is its very own form of public speaking- the location is secondary.
One thing a presenter or speaker can be sure about is the fact that the audience is in a constant information overload. Very little of the content that is consumed is ultimately remembered. So how do you make sure that your message resonates? How do you effectively influence your audience? Here’s a primer:
1/ PICK A PURPOSE Before creating a structure, researching, or developing notes, it is important to make yourself aware of the purpose of your public speaking format. And there are two aspects to consider here: the general purpose, as well as the specific one.
THE GENERAL PURPOSE The three most common purposes for speeches in front of a public audience are to entertain, inform, and inspire.
A fitting example for the first is the witty monologue American talkshow hosts open their respective programs with. The purpose is to get the audience excited about the rest of the show including guests, games, and various entertainment. The audience attending a show like this expects to be entertained. It is therefore the presenters duty to not disappoint.
An informative speech is the most common form of speech in the workplace, or at industry events. The format is often used by thought leaders of industry groups to present current and upcoming trends. In its simplest form, the informative speech is mostly used for meetings in a corporate setting. Especially for leaders and executives, good communication is key.
Motivational speakers endeavor to have an inspiring purpose. Their goal is to make the audience listen and ultimately act on the words of the presenter.
THE SPECIFIC PURPOSE The specific purpose narrows down what the general purpose implies. The ideal form is a one sentence statement- practical and manageable. Keep three key things in mind when defining the specific purpose:
THE AUDIENCE’S VIEWPOINT What do you want them to be able to do after listening to your speech? Use explicit language: “After the presentation you will be able to…” Put the audience, their interests, and their needs at the center of your communication.
BE SPECIFIC Use precise wording defining the aim of your public performance, and use it as a reminder throughout your speech.
FOCUS ON ATTAINABLE GOALS Pick a purpose that is attainable. The audience will probably not be able to ride a bike by listening to the theory. An attainable purpose could be that the audience knows where to book bike-riding lessons, or practice in a safe environment.
2/ TELL A STORY Sharing personal experiences, real-life examples, or entertaining anecdotes will keep the audience’s attention, and influence the way they digest the information you are sharing. Telling a story brings the audience to a setting that benefits the message. Keep it short and to the point. Picking the right story is crucial. It helps to ask the following questions:
• What motivates the audience?
• What is your understanding of the audience’s needs?
• Are you putting their concerns before your own?
• Are you making it clear that their perspective is important to you?
3/ KEEP IT CURRENT Acknowledge the setting you are speaking in. This could be the location, the food, or referencing a previous speaker. It stirs interest, and it gives the audience a reason to listen to your message. For instance, sharing observations about chatter in the hallway of the venue or the food you consumed for lunch, brings everybody into the same mental space. The audience is able to relate to the speaker. The presenter also demonstrates confidence by pointing at potential distractors right from the start.
4/ ESTABLISH CREDIBILITY Start by explaining the reason you are qualified to speak. Share your professional background, your current role, and your area of expertise. Share if you worked with an international brand, or a well-known business professional. The speech should be delivered fluently, with confidence and enthusiasm. And lastly, a well-crafted speech will position you as a leader. Follow the simple framework below:
• Start with the main point
• Go on to the sub-points
• Make use of FATSS: facts, (visual) aids, testimony, statistics, and stories
5/ KNOW YOUR POWER SOURCES Every good communicator knows their strengths and weaknesses. Power sources are personal traits that a speaker can tap into at any point- these include knowledge, expressiveness, history, attraction, and character. A public speaker should build awareness, and ultimately build on the most prominent strength.
For instance, an expressive person can use this power source to their advantage. Using pictures, videos, audio clips, or objects to underline the message gives the presenter the chance to react in verbal communication as well as body language. If knowledge is the most prominent power, a speaker should use data, quotes, and statistics to help emphasize on a point. But don’t use jargon- find a way to demonstrate your thought leadership in a way that is easy to understand for the audience. And in case you are not sure where your strength lies, use your network to get feedback.