Great speeches are memorable, informative and referenced for many years. They inspire and educate. And most successful public speakers have refined their skills through years of experience. So how can an entrepreneur who’s short on time master the basics of delivering a great speech fast? Mimic the pros.
1. Fake confidence. If you’re super nervous, fake it ’til you feel it. Nervous speakers are easy to spot. Their voices quiver, their breathing is shallow and they seem endlessly flustered. Though it’s natural to feel a little nervous, overt anxiety can make you appear to be misleading, or worse, dishonest.
To counteract your panic, feign self-assurance. Stand up straight, smile and reinforce a zen-like mindset with positive thoughts. Remember the four P’s: prior planning prevents poor performance. The more you practice, the more comfortable you will feel when standing in front of an audience.
2. Make connections. I once asked a very successful businessman at an event how he seemed to know everyone in the crowd. He said, “I pretend it’s my party. As I walk around, I ask everyone if they’re having a good time.”
Apply this to your presentation. Look at the entire audience throughout your speech. Smile at strangers in the crowd. Your subtle cues will make the experience feel more like a conversation between friends than a formal presentation.
3. Introduce yourself memorably. If you speak at an event, the organizer will likely introduce you before your presentation. But don’t depend on someone else to endear you to the audience. Before you start your speech, introduce yourself with one or two quick sentences. Avoid listing off your resume -- instead, quickly remind your audience who you are and why they should care about what you have to say.
4. Remain accessible. Choose one social medium through which you’d like people to connect with you during and/or after the presentation. Twitter is a popular choice because audience members might want to tweet something you say if it’s interesting or profound. As an alternative, you could share your website, blog or email address.
Most speakers make the mistake of waiting until the end of the presentation to share contact information. I always tell my audience how they can reach me at the beginning. This is my shameless self-promotional plug. Then I reinforce my contact information with a reminder as I wrap up.
5. Tell stories. Everyone loves a great story. TED talks exemplify this; the best speeches don’t feel like intellectual presentations, they feel like emotional narratives delivered in an exciting way. Engage your audience and share information in the form of a story. A presentation about your business could be told through the eyes of a friend, customer or employee. If your speech focuses on personal experience and advice, share past setbacks and triumphs to illustrate your points.
6. Be entertaining. If you don’t capture the attention of your audience within the first few minutes, you’ll lose them to temptations like checking email or Facebook. A lot of people assume that in order to entertain, you must be funny. That’s not the case -- but you do have to engage in a way that captures the emotions of audience members.
Don’t be afraid to be vulnerable. When appropriate, tell the audience about a time that you failed and what you learned from the experience. We all connect with speakers who appear to be genuine and humble.
7. Leave them wanting more. Even if you’re given a 30-minute slot, don’t feel pressured to fill the time with an overcomplicated presentation. Deliver the information you want to share and then wrap it up. If your speech only takes 15 minutes, invite the audience to ask questions. If the presentation was engaging and interesting, your audience will respond with a desire to know more.
8. Conclude with a call to action. This should be something your audience can do immediately. Inspirational stories are motivating, but most people struggle to apply that knowledge to their everyday lives. Once you’ve shared the results of your experience, tell the audience exactly what they can do to get similar results.