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Monday, November 12, 2012

What I've Learned As a Speaker

Wow!  October was a busy month of speaking engagements.  As much as I love being in front of a crowd, I always relish a brief break.  Breaks give us a chance to step back for a minute and review our performance.  It offers us opportunity to think about how we can be better, learn more, take a different approach.  When speaking publicly or training, I often distribute evaluations after sessions to get feedback on my delivery.  If I don't get the chance, I always ask the host who invited me to share the results of evaluations they've taken during the events.  I don't get disturbed by one or two critical comments because as we all know, you can't please everyone.  I listen to the consensus of the group.  If, overall, people are pleased, then so am I.  However, I'm always looking to improve.  Based on what I've learned and what I've witnessed in other speakers, I'll share three things that make the difference in delivering a great presentation:
  1. Involve your audience in your delivery.  Few people enjoy being lectured to for 45 minutes to an hour or longer.  Find a way to get them to participate so that the interaction results in driving home your message.
  2. Dress your message up with fresh language and one new idea, if possible.  There are very few topics that haven't been spoken about a million times.  But, any topic can be presented in a new or different way so that the audience will stay interested.  If you can, include a unique perspective that differentiates your speech.  For example, I address the topic of change management by sharing the story of a trip I took to Italy to tour a urine plant.  Yeah, it's weird but intriguing.  Also, avoid cliches "like the plague".  Nothing will dry out a speech worse than the same old trite statements.
  3. Stay focused on your message.  There's nothing more frustrating to an audience than a rambling speech.  They happen as a result of poor preparation.  Never wing a speech.  A lack of preparation becomes evident immediately to an experienced audience.  When you lose focus, they lose patience.  
 Deliver a speech that will make people want to invite you back again and again.