In the last few days I’ve had the pleasure of speaking to some wonderful people and then some, even people in Toastmasters. There are a lot of people with the misconception that speaking is easy. It’s not. It takes hard work, preparation, and, best of all, practice. Remember the old saying practice makes perfect? It’s true. If you practice your content you will blossom into an effective speaker that will enthrall and enrich your audience and grip them with who you are. I have a few things that I urge all public speakers, not just disabled ones, to keep in mind.
- Outlining and planning. This is vital. You have to outline your program before you start presenting to your audience. Start by typing out what you want to say to your audience and then try and read what you just typed out loud to yourself. Does it sound choppy and clunky? If so, use it as a foundation to mentally add things, ideas, themes, or messages. Use it to also remove redundant words or meanings. Listeners don’t like repetition. If repetition is crucial in your presentation try saying things differently. Look up synonyms for common words. Talk briefly about a different subject in the same topic and then swing back to the message. The key thing is to have a foundation of what you want to say and how you want to say it. However you speak, that’s how the audience will see you. Plan your appearance.
- Express! There are a lot of people who believe that public speakers just stand up there at the lectern, talk, and then back away and get an automatic applause. They, we, have to engage and draw the audience into our stories and path. Use colorful language such as high as a bird or as bright as the sun. Accompany this with tone inflections as well. If it’s a somber moment in your presentation reflect that in your voice. Your listeners are actually listening to an audio book. Be a good narrator. Make them visualize with you and make them feel with you by using colorful descriptive language and feeling. If needed, engage with the audience. Engage in ways that draw them into what you’re telling them. If you’re describing a knock on a door, for example, gently knock on the table near an audience member. Don’t engage the audience too much because the audience members who were not chosen to participate, per say, will wonder more why they weren’t chosen. The key is to create a wonderful audio book experience. How do you like listening to your audio books?
- Eye contact. Even as a blind public speaker I find it essential to have good eye contact. Your audience can’t become engaged with the message if you’re not looking at your audience. Make sure that you look at every part of your audience. It will help them engage better with the presentation.
- Lighten the mood with questions. I find that after I give a presentation my audience is still processing what I have just told them. My content is real heavy on emotions, so, I use questions to lighten the mood and connect one on one with people in my audience. When they ask a question, focus on them. Build a short connection and make them feel like you are only talking to them. To build the bond, joke with them a little when you answer. This will do two things. It will show people that you’re human because you have multiple sides to you and your audience will relate to you better. It will also make them feel special. If you don’t want to answer a question, calmly and joking let the audience member know that question will not be answered. Don’t make them feel dumb for asking a question. DON’T ever be sarcastic towards the person. Direct the sarcastic words back at you so they are laughing at you, not having the audience laughing at them. Connect on a personal level with each question. Use a few slang words, break out of the professional personality. I believe it helps the audience remember you as a person and they will have a different personality to attach to both your name and presentation. This will help people remember you a lot better. It’s, in my opinion, the most essential part in speaking to a crowd.
I hope that these small tips have been helpful and effective. A motivational speaker is certainly a fulfilling activity and you’ll be rewarded every time you finish a well-received presentation, listening to the deafening applause from your audience. It’s a good feeling.