Wait what? Don’t give a speech? Um… aren’t you supposed to teach us exactly that Ms. Ginger? Ginger Public SPEAKING? Instead of fostering connections, a typical speech is all about pushing content out through our vocal cords at an impressive rate.
The best way to talk to your audience is by having a CONVERSATION. But… you ask… (as you should) How can I have a conversation when I’m the only one talking??? I’m glad you asked.
Inspiring speaking, even to the largest audience, is intimate.
An inspiring speech is a not a monologue. Believe it or not it IS a two-way conversation. The audience may not be speaking back as in normal conversation, but don’t ever think that they’re not communicating with you.
Each and every audience member is consistently sending non-verbal messages, and if you’re paying attention the entire speaking process is a constant conversation. The active audience member, is consistently sending you signals by their facial expressions, smiles, frowns, nods of agreement, shaking heads, questioning looks and yes even sometimes by looking at their smartphones and texting your words to the Internets. They ARE talking to you the entire time, if you have the eyes to see.
What’s the point?
Think of your topic and how excited you are by what you want to say. If it’s something you’re passionate about, that should come easily. If you have to talk about something you don’t quite have a passion for, envision an aspect of that topic you can get excited about.
Cognitive scientist Paul Thagard has created a list of habits that highly creative people employ, based on the habits of successful scientists. To get creative he advises:
- Make new connections: Don’t use the same old material to create your talk. Look for inner inspiration from a different field and use analogies/comparisons to link things together.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: If you’re always afraid of being wrong, you will severely inhibit your ability to try! Failure is a sign that you’re trying something new and pushing boundaries. We have to learn to fail WELL.
- Persistence: Give it a chance would ya? Give your new style a chance to be successful, even if it feels strange. (and in the beginning it WILL)
- Get excited!: Enthusiasm wins the day. Try looking at your topic through the eyes of a small child. What do you like about it? What thrills will your talk reveal?
- Be sociable: Creativity comes quickly when you’re surrounded by new influences, so look to other people for fresh ideas.
- Use what’s around you: There is inspiration everywhere, if you’re just open to it. Seek metaphors, analogies, stories, and humour from the world at large. Bring the richness of your experience into your public speaking.
Think of how you’d talk to your best friends or your Mum or a couple of cool co-workers you really like. Then think of talking to a room full of strangers. Different isn’t it? But it doesn’t need to be. Psychologists have found that the key to deeply confident public speaking is that they actually see themselves that way in their mental imagery. SEE your audience as having a conversation back with you. We call this having empathy for your audience.
Empathy is about questioning yourself about the needs of the audience; their hopes and expectations of what they will “get” out of your speech. Time and energy invested into this step will help you create an empathetic talk that your audience wants to hear.
Are you speaking to a low or high risk audience? Is it a relaxed environment where your audience is on your side no matter what comes out of your mouth? Or a tough/professional crowd that has high expectations of you and your speech?
Once you’ve understood your audience’s perceptions about your subject matter, you’re better placed to say what needs to be said – and to let the rest of the traditional waffle and guff slide away from your talk.
Why so impersonal?
Talk to those listening the way you’d talk to one or two other people you care about. Bring that conversational tone and spontaneity to your speaking. You’re really NOT talking to a room full of strangers, but people who are passionate about the same things as you. Friends you’ve just not met yet. Imagine that you already have a relationship with the audience before you even arrive that will continue long after you leave.
But you will need to raise your volume and energy level, and you’ll definitely want to plan out what you say.
- Speak the way you naturally do. Use ‘you’ ‘I’ ‘we’.
- Don’t try to impress people by sounding smart. Make THEM feel smart by explaining yourself simply and clearly. If you must use technical terms, explain them immediately.
- Your audience members are constantly giving you feedback – by their posture, body language, and eye contact. So pay attention to the signals they’re giving and respond.
- It’s more about communication than regurgitating information. Talk to people… not AT people.
The most inspiring public speaking is straight from your heart to the heart of the audience, as well as mind to mind. It means that you not only see your audience, but that they see you as well. Connection… and isn’t that the most important part of ANY conversation?