As a speaker, I present more than 50 times a year in a variety of venues and to a wide range of audience sizes. Whenever I’m attending events, whether it is an annual conference, sales training event or luncheon group, I’m always excited to hear other speakers. But to be honest, I’m often disappointed. Those of you who know me well may be shocked to hear this admission because normally I’m an extremely supportive person!
I’m disappointed because as a speaker, I want to see other dynamic speakers who can educate, entertain and inspire others to take action. When a speaker is reading their notes, presenting with PowerPoint slides that are full of tiny text and sharing boring content, it is a brutally tedious experience for audience members. When I see the audience disengage and pick up their mobile devices to begin texting and replying to email, it’s a real letdown!
I understand that not everyone is a professional speaker. At many of the events that I attend the speakers may include executives, doctors or professional experts who are not trained speakers – these people may be brilliant in their career, but it doesn’t necessarily make them a brilliant speaker.
Thousands of dollars are spent on meetings, training and conferences. When a speaker is unable to effectively message their vision to their audience, thousands of dollars go right out the window.
Recently I spoke at a large, multi-day event. There was a lot of media coverage and big name speakers. I was more excited to hear the other speakers than I was about speaking myself! Imagine my disappointment when people started to walk out during the presentations that were being given by big name speakers. These speakers had the audience, but lost them.
When you speak, is your audience listening because they are required to? Or have you captivated their attention? Are they waiting for what you’ll say next?
Being a great speaker is about more than knowing your content. Here are some common areas that trip-up talented professionals in their speaking opportunities:
• The number one mistake is not knowing your audience – you may have a great presentation, but if it’s not given to the right audience it’s not a great presentation. Communication occurs when your audience can relate to what you are communicating. You must research your audience and customize your presentation to their needs and interests.
• Using material that is too technical or clinical – this may include medical, wellness, technical, legal information, etc. – ensure that your content is valuable and in terms that your audience will understand.
• Using PowerPoint slides for text – if you place a lot of text on your slides, your audience will disengage from you to read the notes.
• Lack of presentation skills training
• Lack of rehearsal – too many speakers believe they know their material and do not practice their presentation. As a result, their presentation lacks structure and doesn’t flow.
• Reading notes – walking on stage and putting on your reading glasses is not a good sign!
• Lack of humor
• Failing to interact with the audience – many speakers speak TO the audience instead of WITH the audience.
You may have a very entertaining personality, but if you don’t invest time to learn how to speak like a professional then you will not be bringing your best game. I’m pretty athletically inclined, but I’m not about to go pro without help from a coach and professional training to ensure that I have a winning strategy.
I work with a lot of managers and senior executives – I’m surprised when I find out that most of them have never had training to become a better speaker because these individuals are tasked with the huge responsibility of influencing others, creating buy-in during challenging times and developing a following that gravitates to their vision. Inspiring your audience is a critical part in achieving all of these goals.
There are thousands of books, groups and programs available for to help you become a better speaker. I’ve earned a number of certifications with organizations in New York, Canada, California and the UK. Why? Because the different audiences that I work with respond differently in each country.
Here are some tips to get you started on the path to become a better speaker:
• Hire a coach to personally work with you and record your sessions on video – you need to see and hear yourself
• Watch other speakers to get ideas based on what they do
• Start slow – work with small, safe groups and move up to larger groups
• Take a course, or a couple of courses! You’ll learn different information from different people.
• Know your material so that you can confidently walk away from the podium
• Care about being there and speak from your heart
When you accept an opportunity to speak, you have a responsibility to deliver and are privileged to have people listen to you. Never underestimate how lucky you are to have their undivided attention!
Many of our coaching clients work with us to develop and deliver powerful presentations. Contact us for a free 30 minute session and discover strategies to help you become a dynamic speaker! Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to schedule your complimentary session.