Mystical union between a speaker and audience

Punchy, quality content must be a taken for any speech of merit but it is in the delivery that the true mettle of the speech will be proven.

Speaking Clubs offer regular speaking practice  and this will develop lectern confidence.  If you  couple this with learned techniques, like the pause, rhythm and colour in the voice to emphasis your message you will become a speaker of some competence.

I think the difference between a competent speaker and a memorable one is the individual who creates, what can only be termed as, a mystical union between him/her self and the audience.

This charismatic difference is found in a speaker who is authentic, completely warts and all true to his/her self.  Sometimes it needs a bit of coaching to push past our ego that wants to be seen as the dynamo at the lectern. It takes courage to accept the fact that you aren’t perfect. But when you are  unafraid to step into your authentic signature style – the audience will recognise the integrity of your language, posture and intent. They will reward you  with their responsive energy and you the speaker will experience the joy of  holding an audience in the palm of your hand.

Pet peeves. Speakers who do not run to time, complacent speakers who think they can wing it or use  jargon – so elitist.  Speakers who shy away from using a microphone,  read from their notes with no eye contact, But my all time head banging irritation is the rising inflection. No ladies and gentlemen it is not nerves that makes the voice squeak  it is a habit which is a barrier to the effectiveness of your communication. While the audience is still hanging with the question mark tremor at the end of your sentence that’s all they hear. It’s a habit a silly habit, record and listen to it and make an effort to quit it.

Here ends today’s lesson folks!

 My book ‘Finding Your Voice – Ten steps to successful public speaking’ in 2005. encapsulated  four decades of my speaking, training/coaching, speaker management and evaluation passion. Promoted by the publisher Lothian  as the definitive self-help guide to public speaking.

Rehearsing a Speech for Success

Winston Churchill 1941
Winston Churchill 1941

Winston Churchill’s war time speeches inspired a nation to overcome what appeared to be insurmountable odds. But few knew that  Churchill suffered from a speech impediment, he had trouble with the letter ‘s’ which he pronounced as ‘sh.’ After consulting the finest specialist of the day he was advised that there was nothing clinically wrong with him and that all that was needed was ‘perseverance and practice.’  Which he did.  It is documented that he spent up to eight hours rehearsing a speech.

When I first started speaking in public I rehearsed endlessly.  It  became a repetitious mind numbing recitation. I thought of it as a necessary exercise to safeguard to myself from the effects of stage fright which froze my brain and tightened my breathing. I determined that if I mastered the rhythm and flow, the pace, the pause, the open stance of body image and practiced putting the oomph into the delivery then no matter what amount of flight or fight adrenalin my system pumped into my body, I too like Winston would over come and let people see the real lectern me.

It took years before I realised that beyond the first few fresh run-throughs my endless rehearsals were simply reinforcing my fears. What were my feelings and thoughts as I rehearsed over and over? My thorough and diligent practice focused on stage fright, being terrified at the lectern and the humiliation of being swamped by nerves.

When you rehearse with an underlying structure of fear that is what you will create at the lectern. You’re telling your subconscious that you expect to forget your words, to have a dry mouth, to shake, to have stomach churns, to increase your heart beat and tighten your breathing.  Grinding  your fears so resolutely into your psyche that you may even emotionally throw the ‘towel in’ halfway through an oration.

Stage fright is a constant for some people, it is for me. It’s a taken. You acknowledge it and allow it to be, knowing that the flight and fright syndrome will always power you. When you don’t fight it – it loses its fearful intensity.

My enlightened rule of thumb for rehearsing was stumbled upon by accident when I was driving to take part in yet another speech contest.  I was sick with nerves.  I stopped the car and  there on the side of the road I decided that if I could not have fun at the lectern then public speaking was not for me.   What is the saying – when you need it the teacher will appear? I remembered vaguely an article on the power of visualisation and the rest is history. Oh and the bonus was I started to win speech contests! Now this is what I teach others about rehearsing a speech –

Always set your intention, before you speak out loud your speech, to visualise yourself at a lectern, you are smiling, the audience is returning that joyful energy twofold, intent on your words, connecting with you at an authentic level. Run through the speech a few times until the words flow organically, replacing any trip-up words or phrases with your language that is comfortable to you.

On the day, just  before you give your speech take a quiet moment – acknowledge your fears tell them its okay, then visualise an image of yourself walking to the platform, you are looking relaxed, you see yourself at the lectern and smile. As you speak you have sense a knowing that you are truly connecting with your audience and they are loving it. Hear the applause, you are having feeling good, receiving the affirmation with delight.

Then go sock it to them.

The Pitfalls of Failing to Understand Your Audience

Two case studies from my conference organising days that show why it is vital to research your audience’s needs:

A speaker at the conference was a well-known celebrity. He is a very good speaker with valuable information to share. His signature style is very direct and to the point. Most audiences tolerate this style as part of his character and authority. Indeed some people find his style intoxicating.

He was addressing an audience of Consumer Relations Managers; people who spend their working days dealing with volatile customers and their complaints.  In his session he did not temper his manner of delivery, but was just as forthright and bombastic as normal. The audience found his style inflexible and arrogant. A large majority of the audience hated his presentation and documented this freely in their comments afterwards.

An eminent university professor presented a paper to an audience of industry managers in exactly the same manner that he would present to his students. The audience, professionals in their field, were looking for a different level of information and were distinctly uncomfortable with the speaker’s patronising manner. Instead of the presentation being a rewarding experi­ence for them it had the opposite effect. On the exit survey they documented another thumbs down result.But if the outspoken celebrity and professor had bothered to consider their audience then they could have enriched their connection with the audience.

Friday Tips – Know Your Audience

Who, why,what & when – getting your Audience to love you

Who are your audience?  

You need to appreciate how your audience is made up. What age range does the audience fit into? Do they all have a common interest?

Why are they at this occasion?

Is it work related or for relaxation? What is the unifying factor that bring them together?

What is the occasion?

You need to understand the significance of the occasion and how you can make your speech relevant or themed to the event or organisation.

When is the speech to be given?

The time of day will affect the response of the your audience.  Breakfast meetings audiences  you will find generally their retention of real information is at its peak.  An after lunch or dinner audience filled with good food, wine and company will be relaxed and looking for humour. Conference audiences are a there for a purpose and so will make the effort to retain information delivered but early afternoon audiences definitely flag.  Time for a speaker to preface their presentation by getting the audience to do a gentle physical stretch or two.

Whatever the time of the day audiences will always respond to humour and if it is self deprecating even more so.