No degree of personal wealth can buy the kind of lasting trust and integrity that the foundation of a thriving long-term business must be built upon for that enterprise to stand a remote chance of survival. Public speaking is absolutely no different.
Let’s be clear on this: anytime someone extends an invitation to deliver an event’s keynote, agrees to your quoted appearance fee or purchases a ticket to attend one of your engagements, you have been extended the benefit of a doubt that your end of that value proposition will offer an enlightening, enrichment experience that leaves each attendee’s personal balance of knowledge greater than it was before entering the venue. From the moment you stride onto the stage, your chances of losing the audience to distrust or difference of opinion hinge thinly on how you present your thoughts. If you haven’t at least once felt your hold over their attention slip precariously, you either haven’t been doing this very long or are simply a formidable force of natural charisma under the spotlight.
A bit scary, isn’t it?
It doesn’t have to be. Your defeat only becomes total when you continue down a losing path knowing you are losing every step of the way. The earlier you make an impression of genuine warmth and enthused desire to be exactly where you are, the sooner your attendees will nestle into the palm of your hand. If you know you have already set off a room’s skepticism, then waste no time smoothly improving your approach in order to swing their doubt into your favor.
Keep Your Tone Friendly
Dale Carnegie, one of the most engaging public speakers the world has ever known, believed in six fundamental ways to convince people to like someone. Bear in mind, this comes from the author of a classic self-help manual of personal connection called ‘How to Win Friends and Influence People’:
- Take a genuine interest in other people
- A person’s name is, to that individual, the sweetest and most important sound in the world
- Be the kind of good listener that encourages others to talk about themselves
- Speak in terms of the other person’s interest
- Sincerely make that person feel important
Genuine likability begins in your own head. There is nothing tougher than convincingly faking a genuinely warm smile as you convey a personal story. The giveaways might seem subtle to you, but dissonance between your thoughts and words likely burns through what you have to say more glaringly than you can imagine. Those last instants before you step onstage and the pregnant pauses you devoted so much rehearsal time to peppering throughout your talk are golden opportunities to fuel your inviting nature with internal happy thoughts of your own that allow your joy to permeate your next phrases.
Take that time to reflect on networking opportunities immediately before your presentation began. Recall the sincere interest you developed in connecting with what each individual had to say, those instances in when you were hanging on the every word of someone now sitting amidst the audience listening intently to you. Hone in on the sincerity of those spontaneous one-on-one exchanges you sought out before commanding a crowd’s attention where you now stand alone onstage. You have probably already established a greater intimacy than you know.
Speaking directly to singular individuals beforehand weaves a connection that casts a clear light on your audience’s shared opinions, passions and concerns, exactly the commonalities from which you can weave an inviting introduction that convincingly conveys you have already made yourself comfortable on their level without pretense. During your talk, deepen that rapport by touching upon your audience’s cultural commonalities, from day-to-day life to shared favorite pastimes. This way, you aren’t really addressing a room full of strangers; you find yourself speaking to an assembly of already fondly remembered acquaintances.
Locking Down Your Audience’s Trust Early
The voice through which you channel your thoughts, whether it be rife with wit or burning compassion, can swiftly influence and persuade others through unflappable trust and set you apart from your peers if it comes from an authentically personal place. Whatever its tone, it should instill a sense that you have come before this audience on a mission to further a meaningful cause. The most successful and trusted speakers in the world infuse every emotional, physical and logical element of their talks with relatable beliefs and values that spring from somewhere deep inside themselves. With every word, you can remind your audience why and how you want to change the world around you.
Whatever voice you choose, let it ring through everything you have to say. Commune with that persona beforehand and feel it flowing through you before your foot even hits the stage. When you become your cause, nothing and no one could possibly fake the intensely rooted passion your talk will exude. If you see your audience beginning to drift, use one of your pauses to take a long breath and remind yourself what compelled you to the stage in the first place. What did you come here to give your audience and why is it so important to you that they leave your speech with it unshakably intact?
How you say anything will always matter at least as much as what you tell them, no matter the subject.
Know What Grabs Their Attention And Don’t Be Afraid To Use It
Believe it or not, the devices you employ to snare your audience’s interest right off the bat can just as quickly help you reclaim it anywhere else deeper into your talk.
Take storytelling, for example. There’s something about the human experience that ingrains a love for learning from anecdotes, fables and the like. We lose ourselves in challenges that mirror our own and relate to what presses upon our minds. We can’t help but cherish inspiration and wisdom gleaned from how a story’s characters overcame their obstacles and who or what either harmed or helped along the way. We carry lessons with us, sometimes for life, because there was something the storyteller wanted to move us to feel, gain or do by relaying the tale. Giving of your own experiences validates your own investment in the eyes of the audience.
Meanwhile, what you ask an audience can and will engage their separate minds as swiftly as anything you could tell them. When you pose a rhetorical question to your audience and they each silently answer truthfully, you deeply persuade them to tune in even more intently what you have to say. Their own answers may even motivate them to ponder your stances more deeply and possibly re-examine their own beliefs in the process. You might be amazed at how their own internal dialogues change if you bookend your argument with a loop back to the same theoretical query that opened it. Arousing curiosity as such can turn your talk’s entire tide back to your favor.
Likewise, the right quote or statistic inserted within a pointed context may shock skeptical listeners into hearing you out more fairly. Relating a jarring claim, headline or set of numbers to your presentation’s core purpose lends your argument not just weight, but context. These devices can make a persuasive impact on your audience’s openness to listening responding in the affirmative to your recommended next steps. Meanwhile, turning to a well-known figure’s words of wisdom associates your own rhetoric with a recognized echelon of acknowledged credibility. Use a meaningful axiom as a springboard to launch an argument, but keep your chosen quotes relevant to your audience. The closer to their hearts the originator lies, the more profoundly the words will resonate.
Frankly, the same goes for employing gripping photographs, colorful props or brief video clips. Visual aids can both fortify your own statements with impact from an untouched angle and literally affect the eyes through which your audience sees you in ways your words cannot. If your talk itself loses their attention, deepening the sensory experience can quickly restore immersion and pull the crowd back into your thoughts.
Remember, just because you find yourself losing your audience, doesn’t mean it’s time to let go.
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