Lesson 6 - Grab Your Audience's Attention!
Movies and TV shows usually begin with an exciting scene that captures our attention. Starting a presentation with a strong opening is just as useful. A good opening will get, and keep, the audience's attention. More than that, it will also prepare the audience to understand your topic. Here are five great ways to open a speech with power.
Start your speech with a question.
A question automatically gets the audience thinking of an answer. It is important to choose an interesting question that also leads in to your topic effectively. If your topic has something to do with music, a question such as "do you like music?" is not very effective. Most listeners will answer "Of course I love music". They may also think "Why are you asking such a stupid question?". Instead, you could ask something that challenges the audience: "What would you give to become a famous singer?" or "If you had the talent to be a professional musician, would you give up your present life?". Or, if your topic has to do with job interviewing techniques, you might not ask "Are you satisfied with your job?". Instead, a question such as "What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow?". That really gets the audience thinking!
Start your speech with an interesting fact or surprising statistic.
Today it's easy to cite an interesting fact or statistic. Do a little research on your topic and you will uncover some fascinating information that you can use in your speech. For example, you could begin by telling your audience that "the average person changes career five times during their lifetime". That will get the audience thinking about their own experiences - when did they last change jobs, when might they change jobs again, etc. After mentioning this fact, the audience will be more open to your presentation on job interviewing techniques.
Start your speech by describing a problem.
You should clearly and forcefully describe the problem. Everyone has problems and our first instinct when hearing about a problem is to start thinking about possible solutions. When you start with the problem, the audience is right there with you as you explain your favorite solution.
Or you could start your speech with a story.
A fourth powerful opening to your speech is to start with a story. When you describe something that happened to another person, in a situation that everyone can understand, the audience will experience some of the same thoughts and feelings of those people in those situations. There is one thing you have to be careful about however. Make sure that your story is short and to the point. Be brief - tell just enough to get the audience in the mood to hear your presentation.
Try starting some speeches with humor.
Using humor can be a bit dangerous for two reasons. First, what if you say something funny but nobody laughs? Don't let that stop you from trying! If you succeed with humor it will be a wonderful way to connect with the audience. If the audience does not laugh, often they don't even know you were joking -they often think it is just a story. All you have to do is move forward with the rest of your speech. The second reason it can be dangerous is because some speakers take too much time on an opening joke. As with stories, keep humor brief. It should be just enough to get the audience focused, then you can jump into your topic.
These techniques will make the openings of your presentations stronger and will guarantee that your audience listens carefully to your speech. Still, you have to keep their attention all the way to the end, which leads us to Lesson 7 - Memorable Conclusions.
Lesson 7 - Memorable Conclusions
Working often with speakers from other countries, I often hear students end a speech with "That's all". Even many native-English speakers end with a simple "Thank you". Ending your speech in such ways is a big missed opportunity! Most people forget the main points of a speech within hours of hearing it. How will they remember your message? They key is to end with a good conclusion.
The first thing you can do is to give a very general summary of your speech, then end by emphasizing the main point. Below are some more specific ways you can do that.
A very common approach is to end your speech with a "call to action". A simple example would be to say something like, "Consider my suggestion to learn more about alternative energies and how we can harness them in our daily lives". You could also do this as a challenge. For example, "Do you have the courage to try different ideas such as this?", would get the audience to really think about, and therefore remember, your message.
Here are some "quick conclusions" you can try:
* As with openings, you can end with a question that challenges the audience to think.
* Another good idea is to end with a quotation. It's easy to find good inspirational quotes on quotes.com or brianyquotes.com. Alternatively, you can search for a topic plus the word "quotes".
* Describe your vision or hope for the future and, of course, suggest that the audience takes action to bring that future about.
* Sometimes a negative approach can work - remind the audience of the negative consequences if they do not take action.
* Or you can take the balanced approach - remind the audience of the choice between failure and success.
The conclusion should be the strongest part of your speech. Use these tips to plan well and your audience will be much more likely to remember your message.
Lesson 8 - The Key to Successful Public Speaking
A Great Lesson in Communication
I had the chance to hear two talks by former World Champion of Public Speaking, Darren LaCroix. He asked the audience, what is the most important part of a presentation? What do you think? He made sure to give us time to consider our own answers. He repeated the question, giving us time to think.
Here is Darren's answer: The most important part of a presentation is "the thought process in the mind of the audience". It is not just "the audience" itself. The key is "what is the audience thinking" during your speech. Do you want a good example? Darren Lacroix's question itself is a perfect example! Why did he give the audience time to think? Why did he repeat his question? He was focused on the audience's thought process.
Focus on the audience, not on words
We often spend time in our speech trying to impress the audience. In the best case, our attempt simply falls flat and makes no impact. In the worst case, we can turn our audience off and lose them completely. Always keep the audience in mind, find ways to help them answer THEIR questions and solve THEIR problems. Be sure they understand your presentation at every step.
Research your audience
To reach your audience successfully, you may have to do research before you present to them. Find out as much as you can about their job, their organization, their worries, their history. Then, you can use that in preparing your speech. As with the former World Champion, ask questions and watch their reactions.
Use this key word!
Use the key word: "you" often. Adapt your language to suit their situation.
You still have to practice!
As with any aspect of public speaking, this will take time. By reading these articles, you are gaining valuable skills. Put these skills to use for your audience. Keep at it, though, and you will learn to be a powerful, successful public speaker.
Lesson 9 - The Power of Specific Examples
"I believe this is a very useful lesson. You can learn a lot from it. Use this lesson to make your public speaking better!".
Can you see what is wrong with the three sentences above? Are they a good opening for an article? Are they interesting? Can you learn from them? In fact, those sentences are too general, too broad. We could say that EVERY lesson is useful. (That is true for my articles, right?) However, we hope there is something specifically useful in this article. What is it? How, specifically, will this make me better? What, exactly, will I learn?
It would be better to try this kind of introduction instead:
"In this lesson, you will learn two reasons why you must use specific examples and two easy ways to make your message lively and more memorable."
This is much stronger! Now we know there are TWO reasons and two methods. We are now ready to look for those details as we read. We understand the speaker's feeling that we MUST use these. (And so, we wonder WHY we must!) We see the benefits - being more lively and memorable. In your presentations, always include enough specific details so that the listeners can truly understand and visualize your message. Specific details make a stronger impact. Which should we say, "many people suffered" or "there were more than 6000 dead and 20,000 injured". The second one makes a much stronger impact.
Here are two ways you can prepare your speeches so that they include enough details. The first way is the trusted 5W approach - answer the questions Who, What, Where, When and Why. Who will benefit, what will they learn, where and when (or how long will it take), and why is it so good? A second way is to appeal to our five senses. Describe something in a very visual way, so that the audience can form a picture in their mind. Or talk about the taste and smells, if you are talking about food, for example. Or describe the sounds you might hear or the feelings you might feel. All of these senses help engage the audience so that they really remember your message.
You can start with general statements, but then give lots of examples to support your main points. Specific details seem more believable - the audience, when hearing your specific description, can identify things that are similar to their own experiences. I should leave you with one warning, however. Do not give the audience too many details. Balance is important. Use details to explain and describe your most important points, but don't let the details hide the main points.
Lesson 10 - Body Language in Public Speaking
In any presentation, up to 90% of your message is nonverbal. The audience sees your body language, your eye and hand movements, how tall you stand, how you move, the strength and tone of your voice instantly, even before you have spoken your first sentence. If you are stiff or not moving, if you don't move your hands or make eye contact with the audience, then you are missing an opportunity to connect with them.
For beginning presenters, there are two extremes. Some speakers use no movement at all. They stand in front of the audience almost like a statue. Other speakers, even many speakers with some experience, use a lot of meaningless movements. They might move around the room too much. (Moving around a lot is good if you want to communicate energy, if you want there to be some excitement in the air, but you have to use just the right amount.) Or they make many unnecessary hand movements, often two or three hand movements with every sentence.
Not only do extra movements fail to communicate, they also can be distracting to the audience. The most common advice is to "be natural", but how do you do that? Start by focusing on these points:
The most common problem in using hands is too much movement. Try not to move your hands to emphasize every sentence. Instead, just keep your hands at side, or folded in front MOST of the time, then use your hands only when you want to emphasize an important point
Be sure to keep eye contact during the speech. Do not look down, nor look up at the ceiling. Many inexperienced speakers look up at the ceiling when they have memorized a speech and can't remember a line. (This will never happen if you follow my advice- just remember the main points, not the whole speech.)
Some speakers only look to one side of the room, often in the direction of whoever introduced the speaker, or in the direction of an important person in the audience. Instead, you should look slowly from side to side, to make eye contact with the whole audience
Your ultimate goal, with practice, is to be able to move with a purpose. You only have to change position, when making a transition to a new section of your speech.