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.

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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 – Speakers Notes

I much prefer speakers to use memory prompts as speakers who read their speech frequently lose the life force of  delivering an audience grabbing presentation. Why, because they are tied to their printed word, often fearful of losing their place which invariably means they do leading to more discomfort behind the lectern.  Eye-contact is patchy as they try to keep on track. The speech controls them instead of them controlling the speech. But if you feel you must here are some tips for managing your speaking papers.

Type the speech with double space – use only the top half of A4 paper – (if you continue the text to the bottom of the page guess where your eyes go as you read it) It is important to maintain eye contact – read a sentence, use your finger to keep on track and look up at the audience come back to your place, read a sentence…….. Use a highlighter to score beginning of fresh point being made.  Number each page clearly at the top right hand corner.  Practice moving the presented page smoothly across to one side or place behind the other notes. Don’t forget to rehearse it, time it, pace it. 

I recommend Memory Prompts – one liners that take you from point to point.  Write the speech in its entirety and then rehearse it using a highlighter to indicate each point, not complete sentences, just the nuts and bolts of the point. Retype the points in double spacing. Number the prompts clearly. Rehearse using the prompts and checking with the speech notes.  File the speech. Rehearse using the prompts only. Rehearse using the prompts only until it runs smooth, reviewing any stumbling blocks and rewording in language you are comfortable with. Rehearse and time it.  Ready to go get em!

Friday Tips for Speakers – Praise of the Pause

The Pause, a  second or two without speaking, is one of the most powerful elements you can use in speech delivery.

The Pause is to public speaking as a verbal underline or CAPS’ are to writing. Use it to emphasise your point or to add drama to your words.

The Pause will quiet a noisy audience.  Remember the school teacher who could quell a noisy class with a long cool look at the students. An over enthusiastic question time can rattle a speaker and it can get uncomfortable at the podium. Maintain quality eye contact while employing an extended pause and you will be able to take back control.  Bonus of the mute seconds is that it gives you time to think of a diplomatic or courteous answer.

The Pause is an effective tool when you are presenting a workshop. In your introduction to the workshop explain that when you need to recapture the group’s attention, following an interactive session, you will stop talking and raise your arm.  They in turn should stop speaking and raise their arm until the whole room becomes quiet. Works like magic.

At the lectern, just before you speak, Pause, make eye contact and smile. Try it – you will find the audience will reward you with a boost of pure welcoming energy.