Speaking Gig Coming Up? Read This Now

Hey, Joe Biden. Look out, Paul Ryan. Here’s four expert speaking tips that might even help you sharpen your strategies at the debate tonight.

I recently attended an executive-level speakers training program called “Leaders Edge” at Speakeasy in Atlanta, Georgia. Speakeasy has been around for 38 years and conducts intense three-day coaching workshops to elevate already expert speaking skills and techniques. I’d bet Joe Biden and Paul Ryan could even learn a thing or two from these guys. (They need it, after last week’s lousy Presidential debate).

During the workshop, Speakeasy emphasized speakers build a message that moves audience members from point A–where they are–to point X–where you want them be, the intended destination. Most presenters only concentrate on X and don’t provide a framework necessary to help move people in the audience from their current thinking.

So how do you accomplish this? Here are four simple questions to help you make sure you are as effective as possible with your opportunity to speak.

1. Why are you the best speaker for the occasion?

What unique knowledge do you have that you need to impart to your audience?

Establish this with your audience quickly. Your audience doesn’t care about everything you have done–just the information or experiences you have that make you important to listen to today. Structure your entire message from this perspective.

2. What thinking do you want to encourage, change, or enlighten?

To be most effective, think about your speaking topic from the audience’s point of view.

I have a presentation on the true motivations for using social media. Instead of diving right into these motivators, I reach my audience where they are by reminding them of the information they see flowing across Twitter and Facebook every day. I then ask, “Do you ever wonder why people post the things they do?” This allows my audience to travel with me from the same starting point to my ultimate destination which is how to talk to people effectively in social media.

3. Why now?

There is a reason you’ve been asked to give this presentation at this time. Putting your presentation or message within this context bridges the distance between you and your audience.

One of my fellow Speakeasy attendees had suffered eight deaths at his company in the last six weeks. His speaking topic was a reminder of why safety is important, so he used the moving story of recently having to tell family members about the accidents that had killed his employees to put the audience into the right context. This provided a common starting point to understand why safety is an important topic–personally and professionally.

If you have been asked to speak on a topic, you probably live, breath, and eat the subject. This is especially true as you work up to the day of the presentation. Remember that the information will be new and not as top of mind to those listening.

4. What’s on the mind of audience members?

To understand your audience’s mindset, all you have to do is talk to people who are planning to attend your speech. Scott Weiss, CEO of Speakeasy told me that this is one of the easiest things to do, but very few speakers ever think to do it. A brief conversation to understand where your audience stands will help you craft your message and answer why and how the audience needs to hear it.

I was asked to give a presentation to my Toastmasters club several years ago with the same material I use for my ‘true motivations for using social media’ speech. I talked with my fellow Toastmaster members and realized many of them weren’t convinced that social media was even important or relevant. They didn’t get it. So instead of assuming they are paying attention to Facebook or Twitter, I had to instead start my speech with ‘What is social media?’ and ‘Why is social media important?” before I could deliver my ultimate message around ‘How to talk to people in social media.’

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