Anyone can be a basic speaker. Write what appeals to you, practice a few times, stand up and read. That's basic and it will not serve you well. In fact, basic speaking may become a barrier to your advancement.
Awesome is completely different. Awesome speakers are appreciated in the moment and remembered afterwards. Awesome speakers get requests for more speeches and that visibility makes them a person of interest. When someone is seeking a candidate for a high-visibility position, awesome speakers are at the top of the list.
So which do you want to be: basic or awesome? I don't think there is a choice if you want to succeed in your chosen field, no matter what it is.
Here are three steps to be an awesome speaker:
1) Put the Audience First. No matter how much you are admired for your expertise and knowledge, every speech needs to be focused on the specific audience in front of you. Each audience is comprised of individuals with particular needs and interests. They want you to address what's on their minds. Avoid canned speeches or generalities. Take the time to understand what's going on with each audience on that day and in that moment and speak about these issues. That's the first step to being awesome.
2) Have extraordinary presence. Presence is one of those qualities that you know when you see it and it can be developed. Presence takes time to build.
- Your topic should be something you're passionate about (and that the audience needs).
- You must practice dozens of times, until the content is installed and internalized deeply. This allows you to be in the moment in front of the audience and is a big component of presence.
- Once you know your audience and your content, then you develop your delivery style. Start with your natural voice and movement/gestures. Identify places where you can add vocal variety that is memorable but not outlandish. Stories are excellent candidates for vocal variety such as change of pace, high and low volume, varied pitch and strategic pauses. Use gestures to add visual interest. Again, practice dozens of times so that your delivery style is internalized.
3) Expand your thinking about your topic every day. Nothing reduces presence like being in a rut of unoriginal thought. You'll get bored and your audiences will know it. Just becasue you have had a point of view one day doesn't mean you can't modify or update that point of view the next. Add fresh material--especially your thinking--regularly. This should be coupled with your knowledge of each particular audience. Ask yourself how the audience's needs affect your perpsective on your topic. Look for freshness in world events, as you meet new people, and as your own life changes.
I've updated my speeches frequently over the years and no longer speak about some ideas that I used to think we really important. My experiences, both personally and with clients, have given me new insights and new ideas and that's what I talk about now. I expect that I'll continue to change in the coming years.
How about you? What have you done to put the audience first, develop presence and expand your thinking? Share your experiences and if you need some help, let me know.