We’re not really suggesting you need to cheat to be a great public speaker, but it doesn’t hurt to keep a few time-tested truisms in mind. The following critical tips were borrowed (with full credit given) from the Advanced Public Speaking Institute. Review the following ideas and compare them to your own experience. Do they seem right on target? Off the mark?
Drag Some Poor Soul on Stage
Good public speaking should use attention gaining devices. Here is one that works every time: Find some excuse to get someone on stage. When an audience member is on stage, the rest of the audience is glued to the action for the following reasons:
1. They want to see what is going to happen to one of their own.
2. They are priming themselves to be up there.
3. They are worrying to death that they may be asked to be up there.
Reasons 1 and 2 are good and reason 3 is not so good. For 1 and 2 the mindset of the observing audience member is that, “I want to watch to see what my colleague or other audience member will do when they are on stage. No matter how exciting you are as a presenter, you cannot compete with the excitement generated by someone who is on stage who is not “supposed” to be on stage. For number 3, you want to keep shy or sensitive audience members from withdrawing from your program altogether because of the fear that they may be asked to stand up in front of everyone. This chance of withdrawal is easily eliminated by the following statement:
In a moment I’m going to ask for some / a volunteer to come on stage with me. Don’t worry. No one will have to come up if they don’t want to.
There is nothing better than an all female public speaking audience. All female audiences tend to laugh more easily and louder than all male audiences. All-male audiences are the toughest because the male ego gets in the way of laughter. They look around to see if anyone else is laughing before they laugh, and they won’t laugh as loud because they think they will look less powerful. One of the hardest audiences to deal with consists of a group of executives from the same company when the CEO is present. If you say something funny, the executives will start to laugh, but they choke it off until they check to see if the CEO is laughing. If he or she is laughing, then they go ahead and laugh. This kind of audience will create timing nightmares for you. If you are the CEO and you are in the audience for a presentation, it is your obligation to laugh and at least act like you’re having a good time to “give permission” to everyone else to laugh. As a good public speaker, you can sometimes take it upon yourself to gently explain to the CEO how everyone will look to him or her for approval. Audiences that consist of more than 50 percent women are good too because . The presence of the females provides a good buffer and makes it OK for the men to laugh, since so many other people are laughing.
Don’t Say “Yes” to Every Gig
(Did we say “pick” my public speaking audiences?). Yes, we did say pick your audiences. Some of you may not have this luxury because you must do speaking as part of your job, but those of you that do, will move up faster in the speaking world. When you are a beginning public speaker it is important for you to experience different types of audiences just FOR the experience. As you climb the speaking ladder where the audiences are bigger, or more important to your career, and the stakes are higher, you must learn to just say no. Most top speakers don’t accept every request to speak even if they are available, and the money is right. They pick their engagements to put themselves in front of audiences whose profiles indicate the greatest chance of success. If you are a highly technical speaker, you would not want to be speaking to a widget sales group at their annual retreat. Conversely, as a really fun retreat facilitator, you would not want to be speaking to a group of radar technicians who are only interested in performance data of the latest missile protection system. Avoid accepting engagements where the audiences needs are clearly out of sync with your abilities, likes and dislikes. Don’t get us wrong. You need to keep pushing your limits, but if your audience needs more than you can give –that’s right — you bombed. Although it will be a lesson learned, do yourself and everyone else a favor. Learn to just say no.
Keep ‘Em Laughing
Sigmund Freud wrote:
“The most favorable condition for comic pleasure is a generally happy disposition in which one is in the mood for laughter. In happy toxic states almost everything seems comic. We laugh at the expectation of laughing, at the appearance of one who is presenting the comic material (sometimes even before he [she] attempts to make us laugh), and finally, we laugh at the recollection of having laughed.”
This concept has been termed ‘in fun’ by people that study public speaking humor. If you want your audience to laugh, they must be in fun. You, the speaker, must be in fun. The emcee or program coordinator must be in fun. The whole program should be designed in fun. Don’t do anything to take them out of in fun. Don’t speak about controversial subjects like religion or politics and don’t make unfriendly comments to audience members. If a problem occurs which must be dealt with, find an in fun way of doing so. For instance, if you’re at a speaking engagement and someone asks who you voted for say, ‘I voted for the USA.’ That’s a cute way to say that I really don’t want to talk about it. How do you put in fun into practice? There are so many different ways you can just pick one. Have a ventriloquist introduce you at an early morning meeting to wake up everyone and get them in fun. You could pass out fun snacks to the audience or put balloons on their chairs. Public announcements and agendas can be decorated with cartoon characters. Funny props are great for putting people in fun. Do anything you can to be sure your audience knows that it’s OK to laugh.
See? It’s not really that tough. If you’ve been at the public speaking game for a while, sometimes it’s hard to put yourself back in the shoes of an audience member experiencing your presentation for the first time. Regardless, a good session of reflection on the speeches you’ve attended might be time well spent. Focus especially on what went right and, more importantly, what went wrong.
The Speaking of Wealth Team
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