Speaking on a stage is not easy, especially for people who have been thrown into the limelight and not used to that sort of grandstand. Sure, you can report or present to your boss or colleagues, but once public speaking is thrown into the mix, it takes that unsettling task one step further. While conversations spread the spotlight among two or more people, public speakers need to craft their own monologue--and think quickly on their feet--to keep an audience engaged and entertained.
Richard Van Staten, CEO of Quantam and accomplished public speaker, understands the major hurdles speakers face and the most effective tips to mastering the art form. The valuable lessons he shared can be extraordinarily helpful, even if you only have one day to prepare for your event.
#1 - Utilize Humor
Regardless of your audience, there is one thing everyone has in common--they like to laugh. Don't you? Laughing occurs when people relate with what you are saying, have experienced something similar--or they just downright appreciate the delivery.
"Start your speech with humor to loosen up the audience and let them know they will have a good time while learning," suggests Van Staten. "It will also loosen you up before you begin."
Remember, though, that different types of humor are applicable and appropriate for different audiences. Be sure that your humor is tailored to your audience and you will get a resounding reaction. Break the ice.
I suggest mentioning politics (just kidding--please don't do that).
#2 - Be Genuine
Public speakers who hone their craft usually listen to professional speakers over and over again. Hearing Tony Robbins on the stage and learning his quirks and rhythm sounds very romantic to accomplish. However, Van Staten warns that when you take on the attributes of a more popular speaker, you drown out the very reason you were invited in the first place-- you.
"Permit your personality to come out and be genuine in delivering discussion about your topic," suggests Van Staten. "The audience will echo with you more than if they find you to be a fraud."
You're unique, so let people hear from the genuine you.
#3 - Understand Your Audience
You've probably heard the expression 'know your audience.' This is perhaps most apparent when your audience is sitting in front of you, listening to you speak.
Are you speaking at a women's conference? Will it be a room full of marketers and entrepreneurs? The message and communication styles have to be catered to the group you will be addressing, otherwise, you won't make an impact while you are on stage.
You may not necessarily 'know your audience' before you engage, but you can make a fair assessment based on your research of the event and its previous attendees. That assessment will help you understand your audience's common goals and pain points so you can craft your speech accordingly.
#4 - Adjust To Your Audience
Understanding your audience is one thing, but adjusting in real time is how public speakers turn good speeches into great ones.
Van Staten offers several possibilities when it comes to tailoring your presentation: message, introduction, visuals, humor, content, preparation, body language, inflection, and speed are all variables to be changed depending on your crowd. It's the little things that will determine the wow factor the audience experiences with your speech.
"What's the end result of your speech? Is it actionable advice, motivational messaging, or something else entirely? Whatever the goal, keep it in mind to help you stay on track as you make those necessary adjustments," suggests Van Staten.
It's important not to get lost in the mix of the presentation and forget one of the most important pieces of this puzzle--the audience. The better you know them, the more refined message can become.
At the end of the day (or speech), there's nothing but positive experience to gain as a result of any public speaking opportunity. It's up to you, however, to maximize your impact by leveraging proven techniques. See you up on the stage--can't wait to hear that first joke.