Communication expert Monica Lunin shares her tips to make sure your speech lands, every time.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for any anyone speaking publicly is ensuring that your message lands for the people that are listening. Whether you are giving a wedding toast, an inspirational speech or a work presentation, you want your audience to tune in and understand.
Communication can be a tricky, subjective business but these five techniques below will help you get deliver a winning speech in any situation.
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Start strong & finish strong
First impressions matter and final impressions linger. People may lose the thread of your talk somewhere in the messy middle so make sure you structure a clear introduction and conclusion. This is a simple hack that will get you out of a lot of sticky situations.
If you don’t have time to memorise or rehearse your whole speech, at least you can plan to master your intro and conclusion. Your opening should include a hook to grab the attention of the audience. Plan it first, then land it with confidence. The end of your speech should deliver satisfaction, fulfilling the promise you set out at the start.
Make a connection
Make your mark. Image: iStock
The most impressive public speakers make you feel like you are the only other person in the room. Former US President Bill Clinton had the knack of achieving this even if he was addressing a convention of 20,000 people. NZ’s Jacinda Ardern can reach through the lens of a television camera and connect with whomever might be watching.
What these speakers have in common is the ability to convey empathy. Forming a personal connection is not just a nice feeling, it draws the audience to you thus creating rapt attention. When people feel a connection they are more receptive to your point of view. Practice making eye contact – we speak to eyes and ears – not over the top of people’s heads and not to your notes.
Work with the energy in the room
Before you speak, consider what the attitude, tone or energy level is in the room. What will be happening immediately before you take your turn and how might that impact the mood. There is no sense in trying to force your message on a crowd that is not primed to receive. If people are exhausted inject new energy with some form of engagement or even movement.
If they are distracted, make your mark to encourage focus. Try having the music gradually increase in volume then suddenly stop – you will find silence descends and you can begin.
Bring confidence into the room. Image: iStock
Too many public speakers begin with an apology. ‘I will keep this short’ or ‘ I’m sorry we are a bit behind schedule’. This is a mistake – it does nothing to improve understanding and it may even trigger pity – the death knell for any speaker.
Speak from a position of strength and confidence. When the audience is feeling sorry for you it is just another distraction getting in the way of them really hearing what you have to say. This is a pervasive presentation pitfall but easy to overcome, simply stop apologising.
Embellish your message
For every point you make think about what you might add to bring it to life. Could you use a metaphor, anecdote, or example to create deeper understanding? Greta Thunberg brings climate change to life with the metaphor of a ‘house on fire’.
Grace Tame shares her personal painful story of abuse. Martin Luther King Jnr wraps his ideas in the metaphor of a dream. As with these examples, you need to make sure that whatever device you use is relevant and appropriate to your central idea and where you are speaking. A simple place to start is with your own personal experience – use a story to make a concept real.
Don’t be afraid to get personal. Image: iStock
Remember, there are so many factors at play when speaking that can cause your message to bounce off in unintended directions. Your job is just to minimise that diffraction and ensure, as much as possible, that the message you intend is the message that is received.
Monica Lunin is the author of What She Said: The Art of Inspiring Action Through Speech (Wiley $29.95) and director of the leadership and communication consultancy MOJOLOGIC.