I started training public speakers and presenters in Nigeria since 2011.
I’ve hosted speakers in my events and participated as a guest speaker in other people’s events.
If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that speakers move in three stages:
- They start as amateurs – little-learned. Unskilled. Terrible or fairly doing fine. They do all the wrong things, sometimes even without knowing it. It’s not bad to be an amateur what’s bad is staying there longer than you should.
- They get good – with learning, exposure and consistent practice they improve. They start picking up little by little. They’re not so good yet, but they’re doing just fine.
- They become great – Now, they’ve got so good at it. They can deliver impressive speeches anywhere and at any time. They’ve got so good some people think they’re naturally good at speaking.
But here’s the other side of this art of public speaking that we often don’t realize: moving from being an amateur to becoming a professional is not really a question of time as some people think.
Not like time is not a factor but TIME is not all it takes to become a greater speaker. You may have been speaking for 10 years and still be terrible at it.
You need knowledge, not just time.
Clearly, there’s something the great speakers are doing that you need to learn to do, and do it over and over again and you’d be surprised how quickly you could go from being an amateur to becoming a great speaker.
What I want to show you is 19 things great speakers know, and do which have made some huge difference in their presentations.
When you know and do these things, you are very likely going to get similar, and sometimes greater results, just like the great speakers do.
Here, let’s take a ride starting from the first important knowledge —
1. It’s Not About You
Great speakers understand that when one is given the opportunity to speak, it’s a privilege. It doesn’t always mean you’re smarter than everyone in the audience.
More often than not, you’re invited to share your knowledge or understanding of a given topic.
You’re not invited to measure shoulders with members of the audience.
The focus should not be on you but on the subject and the audience.
You’re more or less a facilitator using your skill and experiences to drive conversation around an important topic.
When you understand this, you stop being overly concerned about your imperfections and instead focus on what you know that motivated the host to invite you to speak.
Amateurs experience nervousness, many times because they tend to think a lot about themselves. And they often make the conversation so much about them, that the audience starts feeling so lost in the whole gimmicks.
2. Questions Are The Right Answers
Jesus was asked 183 questions, he answered only 3.
In the Gospels, Jesus asked many questions than he plainly answered.
In fact, he often answered most questions by asking another question.
Jesus asked 307 questions!
Now think about that for a moment. This man was regarded as one of the most influential religious leaders in history. He’s brilliant and intelligent all the same.
He was even regarded as the embodiment of the entire wisdom and counsel of God almighty (1 Cor. 1:30)
Yet, he doesn’t rush to answer every question thrown at him. He preferred to ask more questions than to answer any. He understood that the question is the answer.
We know that questions provoke people to search for deeper meaning than the answers they’re often looking for at the surface level.
And questions provide the people with other ways to look at the issues that they’re often ignoring.
3. Vulnerability Is A Good Thing
Everyone is afraid of looking vulnerable on stage. We often try to fight it because we do not want people to know that we are not as perfect as our suits or our use of English Language.
But great speakers understand that intentional vulnerability is a powerful tool in the hands of those who know how to wield it. Great speakers use vulnerability intentionally to build a strong connection with the audience.
The audience want to know that you’re not a robot or some god – they want to know that you’ve failed at some things just like them; that you do not always have it all figured out just like they do at times; that you also flop, just like them; that you’ve made silly mistakes, and all of that… Just like them.
By sharing some stories about your vulnerable moments – your low times, a little of your weakness that some people in the audience can relate with – you instantly create rapport and emotional bond with them.
Most people feel you can’t help them if you don’t understand them. To some degree, that feeling is valid.
In other to show that you understand them, you need to make them understand that you’re not even a perfect person or a super hero as they might be thinking.
In fact, they need to understand that some of them are even stronger or more opportune, to some degree, than you have been.
But you’ve made a few good decisions or choices that shaped your life irrespective of your shortcomings. And that’s what you’re there to talk about.
4. Humor Is A Tool
They say couples who laugh together stay together – same thing with speakers and their audience who laugh together — they stay together, at least emotionally.
When you make your audience smile or laugh as a result of something you said, it eases up a lot of tension in the air and immediately creates a sort of emotional connection that makes them more receptive to your message.
Almost every act of correction or criticism hurts when done without some sense of humor.
This means that the best way to criticize something, especially one that many people have started embracing, is to make fun of them. Many people usually get the message despite how humorous it sounds.
Many people feel like they’re ‘nice, friendly and approachable’ and many people always try to not get so angry with everything they say even when it hurts.
Girls are more likely to fall in love with a guy that has a good sense of humor than the one that is dry and too mean. Well, same happens with our audience.
Many people don’t care a lot about how much you know, as they care about how you make them feel while you talk about things they thought they’d already know.
5. Energy Is Contagious
If the speaker is dull and dry, so will the audience. They’ll leave the event with little or no fire in their heart.
If the speaker is looking pale and hungry, so will the audience.
Enthusiasm is one of the most powerful characteristics of any good speaker, anywhere. Great speakers are passionate people.
Every good speaker, whether in business, politics or science, usually possess a certain amount of energy that anyone who comes in contact with them often observe.
This energy is a life-force that could be felt in their voice and in their heart as they speak about their topic. This energy is the reason why you’d hardly sleep while they’re ‘burning’ on stage.
Without this energy, without this ‘fire’ – the speaker is weak and makes the subject of no urgent importance to the audience.
“The power of passion in public speaking beats the physical mechanics or technique of the speaker. The origin of a great speech is a strong desire to motivate or change something or someone. A person who has feelings of great intensity… Click To Tweet
Great speakers speak with passion and enthusiasm. The audience draws inspiration and strength of character after every moment spent listening to any great speaker.
6. Perfection Is A Myth
The idea has never been to give a “perfect speech”
There’s no perfect speech. No single speech or presentation is enough.
We are not looking for the ‘perfect presentation’ or speech.
What we need however is an authentic speech. Authentic in the sense that the speech is in line with your beliefs and in sync with your body language. You prepared the speech adequately. And you did your best to deliver the speech with sincerity and simplicity, carrying the audience all along.
The plan is to keep improving on yourself and your ability to explain ideas and concepts better to people. It is to become so good you can quickly discuss your idea and instill faith or hope in the audience. Click To Tweet
You really don’t need to be perfect. In fact, the audience hates it when you seem to be perfect (they feel like you’re some god, or they just think you’re too fake to be true)
But, you do need to be someone who’s original and authentic.
The audience should be able to see that while your accent is not perfectly toned, you’ve put a lot of work into simplifying the subject and communicating in clear terms.
And, you deeply believe in everything you said.
7. Fear Is A Sort Of Energy
Fear is a sort of energy – it can drive you to take action or make you to do nothing. Either way, fear is a ‘bastard’ energy that needs some guidance to become useful.
Tell you what, stop trying to stop being afraid.
The idea is not to STOP being afraid. It is to use fear for greater good.
The idea is to turn your fears into some kind of energy that drives you into doing what is right.
“Being fearless is not about a lack of fear. It’s about taking that fear and transforming it into an excitement and energy around your message.”-- Sarah Lloyed-Hughes Click To Tweet
By giving your fears a different meaning, you empower yourself to look at your fears differently.
Instead of thinking of it as “I’m scared” how about thinking of it as “I’m excited”?
If you’re afraid that’s a good thing.
It’s a sign that you’re about to take a new step. You’re about to talk about something that’s so important your heart is kicking.
It’s a good sign…
Now channel it. That’s what professionals do.
Use it. That’s what great speakers do!
8. There’s Only One Person We Care About – Ourselves!
No one cares about your products as much they care about their problems.
Great speakers understand this more than the rest of the other bad ones.
No one cares about what in the name of James you’re selling. What we do care about is “us” – our problems, our goals, our desires and needs.
So talk about them.
Don’t open your speech with “about our products or services”
Start with engaging the audience to talk about their challenges, or better still, discuss their pain points, their needs and their goals that they desperately want to achieve.
Then talk about how your products are specifically designed to address these things.
9. Stories, Like Sex, Sell A Whole Lot
Oratory really is the art of storytelling.
There’s never a good speech without an interesting story or two. Never!
People connect very quickly with stories.
Facts are arguable, stats are hard to cram – only stories are easy to remember, open to interpretations, and satisfies our biologically need to imagine events and circumstances or simply watch them reenacted on stage.
Great speakers tell good stories that make people connect very easily with their speech.
Amateurs either don’t tell stories at all, or tell them poorly.
10. People Love To Be Entertained
There’s a lot happening all at once.
You’d think people want to learn more than they want to be entertained but what people REALLY want is to be entertained while they learn a thing or two.
When learning is bereft of fun, it becomes a burden. Unless it’s some academic studies that we must cram in order to pass, many of us would give up too soon.
The real secret of learning is to have fun while doing so.
That’s how we learned as children – by playing around.
It used to be fun to learn, when we were kids. Today, learning is becoming something else. Adulthood is stealing all the fun away and we’re forced to learn like it’s a heavy burden.
Great speakers have three purposes for their speech:
- To educate the audience.
- To motivate the audience.
- To entertain the audience while doing all of that.
They understand how to weave fun into the curriculum in a way that takes the burden out of it and makes it easy to continue learning.
Today, entertainment is the order of the day. We spend more time where we find entertainment than any other place.
It gives us the opportunity to ease up some stress, relax and enjoy life while we still have it.
Think about this:
How can you make your next presentation fun and enjoying?
Remember, people can find almost every answer they’re looking for. You just need to put a human touch to the subject so that they get more emotional value while you stir their minds all together.
Again, I have never seen a good teacher who is not an entertainer of sort. Remember your best teacher?
11. Visual Trumps Texts… Any day, Anywhere!
Words are often hard to imagine.
How much information do you think people can take in?
According to research done by Professor Albert Mehrabian, we take in about 55% of visual information, versus only 7% of textual information.
What that means is that people are much more likely to view, read and relate with your images, photos, objects, charts, diagrams, tables, graphs or illustrations than they would with plain texts.
We’re not getting lazier, as some would make you believe. We’re getting busier, life is getting more sophisticated, there’s a lot going on that is begging for our attention.
So, too much words and texts only add up to the overwhelming pressure on the brain.
By using images or videos, you make easier for us to get the message without having to do a lot of reading and thinking.
For a fact:
- Visuals get 94% more views than text-based information
- The human brain processes visual information 60,000x faster than text
- Photos, pictures, and videos get over 100% more engagement
- The most popular presentations have an average of 37 or more images.
- Visuals increase retention by 42%
Do you want people to remember what you said?
“A study at the Wharton Research Centre revealed that participants remembered 50% of the visual information, but only 5% of the bulleted points.
Visuals can help your clarify points, reinforce your message, and create greater interest and enthusiasm for your subject.
What’s more, visuals encourage audience interaction and provide a change from just hearing, to seeing and hearing.”
12. Why We Do The Shits We Do – No, it’s not for God or humanity.
There are only two primary reasons why we do the things we do – to avoid pain OR to have pleasure.
No you didn’t actually go to school because you love certificates or studies. You went because you don’t want to have the pain of not getting a good job because you didn’t go to school; or not fulfilling your potentials because you were not well prepared; or you wanted the pleasure that comes with being one of the “educated” folks in the society.
Even Aristotle agrees with this when he said, “The aim of the wise is not to secure pleasure, but to avoid pain.”
Amateur presenters often spend too much time talking about fancy features and wonderful benefits.
The great speakers focus on helping the audience understand the pain they’re up against if they refuse to take action or the pleasure they stand to enjoy, if only they could take action. Click To Tweet
Everyone hates pain.
We would do anything to avoid it.
When the pain associated with losing money is stronger than the pleasure associated with having something you’re offering, the audience won’t take your offer.
When the pain associated with joining your cause seems to be stronger than the pain associated with not joining, many people would not follow.
People enjoy our stories about our dreams because they paint pleasures that they themselves desire to have.
13. Time Management Is A Question Of Character
When you exhaust your time and take more than you were given, it’s not a mistake – it’s a character flaw.
It often happens that when you spend your time and encroach into other speaker’s time, you change the order of events and affect the time of dismissal too.
At the end, the audience is affected. The host starts losing her integrity for failing to dismiss when she promised to. People go back home later than they told their families. It’s a cycle of bad thing which started from one speaker who does not respect order.
If you must speak, endeavor to finish some minutes before your time. If you need more time, always discuss with the host. If for any reason you could not finish your presentation, leave the rest for another day.
Remove the fluffs and chatter.
Focus on what’s more important to the audience and send them some links for those who want more extensive reading.
Poor time management is a character issue.
14. Sales People Suck – So Don’t Be Like Them!
You’ve heard before, “people want to buy but hate to be sold.”
Sales people suck. They do a lot of talking, fake caring, and to think of how much pressure they mount on people… disgusting!
Our hearts and money are treasured; we want to give them willingly, not under compulsion.
Don’t be like the typical unskilled “sales people”
Great speakers are great salesmen and women but they often don’t look or act like your typical sales people. They sell in subtle ways and they understand that selling is not some manipulation or motivational gimmick.
When you have the chance to speak before an audience, focus on providing value and creating an opportunity for them to want to work with you because they’ve seen how beneficial that would be.
Ask more questions, relate with the people and try to understand their challenges better so you can help them.
15. Data And Research Is The Only Respected Authority Of Presentation
Christianity has one spiritual authority (book) – the bible.
Data and research.
If you want more people to respect your opinion on stage, then do something that many amateur speakers often don’t – research your topic and show up to the stage with some startling facts or studies that reveal a lot of issues about what you want to talk about.
They also make it impossible to argue with the speaker as they rely on some body of information revealed by some reputable or trusted organization.
If I tell you that as a smoker, you have more chances of dying young. And this whole idea is not my opinion, but it’s coming from The World health Organization. I’m sure you would have very little argument with me. You would in fact take my words more seriously since I am relying on information that was covered by a respected institution on the subject matter.
Citing researches and discussing studies done in the area you’ll be speaking on will lend credence and credibility to your argument.
It will impress on the audience to listen to you since you’ve done most part of the work (study) on their behalf and you’re willing to share.
When this skill is deployed creatively, you would instantly become someone whose message or presentation is respected because you often do the hard job of finding out the truth about your topics.
A lot also change when we study the researches that have been done in the areas we want to speak.
It opens our eyes to so many loop holes that no one seems to be noticing.
Sometimes, we even realize we have been wrong about the whole thing because we have never taken out the time to look into it deeply.
16. Connection Is More Effective Than Communication
Everybody is talking, only great speakers go beyond just talking to making a connection with the audience in a way that makes them feel like listening and responding.
The people in your audience are human beings with emotion.
They’ll judge you more on the basis of how you made them feel than on how much vocabulary you use. Remember that in your next presentation.
Too many words can lead to strife and faults.
Good speaking is not always about finding or using the right words, it’s more important to seek to connect emotionally with the people in the audience… Only then, would they stop reading meaning into every word you say and start finding reasons to understand you.
When we connect with our audience, the message feels right and acceptable. They don’t just listen, they also want to give your message a try.
Great presenters understand that building connection is more important than merely sharing too many information.
Once there’s some emotional connection between the speaker and the audience, passing the message becomes a lot easier.
The idea is to use words and the properties of words to make the audience feel that you understand them, you care about them and you’re going to help them if they are willing to accept your ideas.
We only trust people we feel connected to. Otherwise, everyone is suspicious.
We want to follow people we believe they have our best interest at heart.
If people have been hostile towards your presentation, it’s likely because you’ve not been connecting with them even though you’ve been doing a great deal of talking.
17. Transformation Is More Powerful Than Information
When amateurs speak, the focus is on sharing pieces of information.
When great speakers speak, the focus is on how to take a single bite of unconventional idea, and use it to stir a cause for change in the society, community, industry or even at workplace.
This focus breeds a different kind of approach to the subject matter.
It makes the speaker to really look out for more ways to paint the picture, design the experience and drive people to action, not just words.
Many people will pay a lot more for transformation than they would for information.
Many people would want to experience a speaker with reputation for bringing changes or challenging status quo than the one that seem to be more interested in mere information.
What’s the one thing all great communicators have in common?
Martin Luther – Equal rights for all irrespective of skin color (change)
Barack Obama – The audacity of hope (change)
Donald Trump – Make America great again (restoration)
Fela Durotoye – Build a new Nigeria (change)
Jesus Chris of Nazareth – Repent for the kingdom of God is near (change – repentance means a change of heart)
Nelson Mandela – Freedom & Peace (change)
I could go on and on.
The focus of great speakers has always been on how to use the power of words to help people find the strength to take some leap of faith, realize the power to take massive actions and take responsibility for the next big shift in… Click To Tweet
Think about your focus and your message.
Do you often question how you could use your presentation to shape minds and encourage people to change for good?
17. People Want Inspiration More Than They Want Knowledge
Knowledge can become overwhelming.
Many people just need some push to start using what they already know and deal with the guilt of knowing too much and achieving too little.
Again, amateurs are all about the pieces of information.
Great speakers on the other hand look for ways to inspire the audience to action.
They share stories to give people a reason to believe. And they often focus on how to help people see that they can accomplish whatever they set their minds to do.
Inspiration is not something you do, it’s something you give.
More often than not, people FIND inspiration when you share your own stories in a way that makes them understand that you had chances of failure, just like them, but you made certain decisions and choices that changed your life.
19. Many People Prefer Strategy To Motivation
Motivation is good, strategy is best!
Often, the difference between amateurs and great speakers is in their ease of offering useful and actionable intelligence.
Becoming a great speaker is a process. The more you go out there and test the real world, the more you try new things and learn new things – the more you expend your capacity to offer useful and actionable ideas.
Nothing sucks like seating for over one hour and leaving the meeting without any clear idea on how you would implement the ideas shared on stage.
What we want is some strategies, some steps to take… not just some emotional hype that would soon disappear in the face of hardship.
Strategy brings direction. A sense of direction builds confidence and eliminates stress. Without clear strategy, emotion would easily die away in a matter of hours.
Focus on the 80% of what people want – strategy.
Give them ideas, tips, how-to’s, plans and direction on how to accomplish a desired objective.
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