I’ve been speaking professionally now for about a decade. I enjoy telling new people I meet that I’m a professional speaker because they often react as if they’ve just discovered an alien species. It’s fun.
By nature of being a speaker, sometimes I get asked for advice about speaking.
- How did you get started?
- How did you become a good speaker?
- What tips do you have for how to be a good speaker?
Today, I’m going to take a break from talking employee engagement and instead, talk speaking. If you don’t want to be a better speaker or don’t care about the process of public speaking, then you can skip the rest of this post. I’ll be back to employee engagement next time.
I won’t bore you with some huge back story about how I became a speaker because none of that will help you be a better speaker. I will say that I think that I was born with some natural advantages like a good voice and a love of performing in front of people. But, the rest of how I became a good speaker is something anyone can replicate.
Here is the advice I offer when asked for my speaking tips.
1. Speak with passion.
When you are deciding if you should speak or what you should speak about, consider how passionate you are about the topic. If it’s something that gets you excited or makes your blood boil, that’s a good sign. Passion is contagious from the stage. I have been called an “evangelist” many times because I speak about topics that I deeply care about and that passion flows out of me. If you don’t care about your topic, it will be obvious to your audience and they won’t care either.
2. Have a point.
If you are going to stand up in front of a group of people, you should have a reason for doing so. Do you want to persuade or influence them to a particular point of view? Do you want them to take a specific action? Or do you just want to make them laugh? Be very clear with yourself about why you are speaking and what you hope to accomplish. Your audience is expecting you to take them for a ride so make sure you know where you are going.
3. Tell stories.
If you are a student of communication, you know that stories are one of the most effective means of communicating information to other people. Stories activate our brains in ways that no other type of communication does. So, when constructing your speech, if you have a choice between showing a chart and data or sharing a story, always chose the story. People remember a good story.
4. Program your language.
The thing that usually surprises people is that I script out my speeches word for word. When I’m creating new content, I literally write out the entire thing in narrative form. Then, I go back and edit it over and over until I get the structure, timing, and phrasing of the language just right. I then read this written content out loud over and over again until I start to feel as if I could recite it without the script. I then start to transition off script and begin to practice reciting it from memory.
The reason I take these steps is to program the language of the speech into my brain. Through this preparation, I am freed from having to think about what or how I am going to say things. Instead, I can focus on audience and what’s happening in the room. I am able to improvise without being thrown off course. Getting to this point takes time and diligence. This brings me to my next point.
5. Practice. Practice. Practice.
Most people under prepare for speaking. This is where they fail themselves. People describe getting very nervous when they speak, sometimes struggling to find the right words when they are on stage. While you will always have nerves, by scripting and practicing relentlessly, your confidence will increase and you will be better equipped to manage the nervousness.
6. Know your audience, but be yourself.
One of the sacred rules of public speaking is to know your audience. Who are they and what do they care about? Knowing this allows you to adapt your references and language to better connect with them (and avoid sounding uninformed). This is important advice to follow. But, regardless of your audience, don’t back away from showcasing your unique and authentic style. Adjust, but don’t conform. What makes you different is what makes you memorable. Show off a little of that in every speech whether it’s through your stories or your style.
There you have it. Jason’s tips for speaking like a pro. I hope you found some nuggets in there to help you become a better speaker the next time out.