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Six Trade Secrets To Being A Great Speaker.

By Patti A. Wood, M.A.

1. Make the speech about the audience not about you, the content, or data-filled PowerPoint slides. As a presenter, face to face with an audience you have an opportunity to connect with people in a unique way. You can form a relationship with a group, with all its synergy and back and forth flow of questions and ideas. When you connect with an audience you can not only inform them, but move them in a way no handout, brochure or manual can. But you must reach out and connect. If you are standing with your back towards your audience reading an endless barrage of detailed slides, you are not creating a magic relationship with your audience.

2. Be different from every other speaker in your company. Be the best at being you. If you are just conforming to the cultural norm and speak like everybody else does, what value do you really give to the audience? What is different and unique about you? Are you ironic with a dry sense of humor, put that humor in your speech. Can you draw? Draw your flip charts or scan items you’ve drawn into your slides.

Do you know everything about jazz or baseball or collecting bugs? Relate your hobby interests to your topic. Play John Coltrane as you talk about how the department has to play differently to stand out. Show how four ways to pitch a baseball are like four ways of investing; how ants work together and how your team has to work together. If you’re afraid and are saying “but everybody else is boring-- I don’t' want to take a risk”,remember your parents said if everybody jumped off the Brooklyn Bridge would you?'' It’s scary to be different from the norm but it’s the only way to be above the norm. Think of the best presentations you have seen. What was abnormal about them? Be different; be the best you.

3. Don’t use PowerPoint on the computer as the first step in the creative process to write your speech. The little dot is not inspirational. The sequential bullet steps actually engage your critical left hemisphere. The left hemisphere loves to edit old information and the critical brain makes it harder for you to come up with new information.

Follow these steps: Take out a blank sheet of paper - one with no lines -and brainstorm all the possible things you could cover. Second, create a purpose sentence that says what the audience will be able to know, see, feel or do at the end of the presentation. Next, write three or four main points that help achieve your purpose and then and only then go to your power point and create slides to support your purpose. Starting with an outline or PowerPoint dots creates a very organized but very boring speech.

4. Start your speech with something different.  Don’t start with good morning, my name is… or glad to be here... That’s boring and we have heard it before. You can say it later to be polite but the audience will change their internal channel changer if they hear the same old beginning they have heard a thousand times before. If everyone starts with a PowerPoint slide with the title of the presentation, the name of the product or the company name, resist the urge to be a copycat. Start with a provocative question related to the topic or a statement that answers the audience’s question: “What is in it for me?”. Tell a story, read something from the paper related to the topic. Put up a photograph or cartoon. Again resist the norm. Be different.

5. Create breaks and add spice. All food and all speeches are better with a little spice. If you merely go from one piece of data to the next, the audience can be lulled to sleep. Add a dimly lit room after lunch and the snoring could shake the walls. Create a change in pace and add energy, add spice. An audience’s average attention span is five to fifteenminutes (the younger the audience, the shorter the attention span) so create a break every fifteen to twenty minutes. A break can be giving out candy. Giving an example, changing from slides to a flip chart, going from the front of the room to the back to speak, or maybe have everyone turn to a partner and share what they have learned so far. All of those are “breaks.”

6. End strongly and powerfully with content you have planned ahead and practiced. Research says your credibility is most strongly established at the end of your speech. Instead of ending with risky Q & A, do Q & A and then have a great conclusion. Be inspirational, be wise, or be funny---but say something great and deliver it with conviction. There is not one single thing you can do as a speaker that will have as much power to change your speech as the last sentence that comes out of your mouth. Don't wing it. Craft it.

Spend more time on it than your visual aids-- its more important to your professional image that anything else in your speech. You can stumble through a point, you can drop your notes, but if you end professionally that’s what the audience will remember.

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