I speak, a lot! Every time I try to make it better, engage my audience some more, and leave the audience feeling three ways:
1) It was worth coming along to hear Joanne
2) I've taken one thing away from Joanne's talk
3) I'll follow her online and join her community
I always always change my address every single time I speak. Why? Because the dynamic is going to be completely different and so I make sure I consider my top 10 tips below before every speaking event.
So I decided to document my tips on how to engage an audience. Make no mistake, sometimes I have off days and I don't perform to the standard I expect off myself or indeed that others expect off me. I hope these tips help you and if you have any more please add them by commenting on this blog post or tweet me @tweetsbyJSB.
#1 Know your audience
Make sure you know exactly who your audience are and why they are in that room? Are you part of a bigger event, is your address one of many, what is the audience there to learn about? You don't want to disappoint simply because you got the audience wrong. For example, if I'm speaking at a business awards ceremony then I will keep my speech to business topics and share some anecdotes and learnings from my own businesses.
#2 Three key messages
I always have three key messages that I want the audience to leave with. But I'm astutely aware that they might just leave with one message, and that's ok. I build a story around each of my three key messages and draw in the audience with each one.
#3 Draw in with storytelling
Everyone loves a good story. As an Irish person I am naturally skilled in telling yarns. Bring storytelling into your address, make it personable as opposed to making it more like a business deck or a sales pitch. Keep it in the first person and bring your own experiences into it as well as others (but do not identify people if you don't have their permission).
#4 Feel the atmosphere in the room
This is something that really helps me in all my talks. I'm an instinctive person and I monitor the dynamic and energy in the room. I also try to speak to a number of people before my address to get to know them and why they've come along. This will also help. I've often completely ditched a speech that I had intended to deliver based on the atmosphere in the room!
#5 Notes or no notes?
When I use notes, I under-perform. That's just me. You need to establish whether your speaking style is more suited to natural delivery with no notes, having bullet points as a guide or having a script. Some people will tell you that reading off a script is a no-no, however it completely depends on the speaking gig and the audience. I also write speeches for clients and in particular political or high-level business addresses sometimes require a script but it's important to practice the delivery of a speech from a script. Record yourself and listen back, this will help immensely. I use a voice record app on my smartphone and listen back to it on the go.
#6 Get to know your idiosyncrasies
If I am standing behind a podium speaking I tend to lift my right leg slightly and lift it up and down! I know! Strange isn't it? It was my husband who noticed that a number of years ago and brought my attention to it. I also say 'aww or mmm' which I absolutely hate so I'm working on that. However about a year ago I delivered a one-hour lecture and the Head of Department came up to me afterwards and said: "It's really refreshing to hear a lecture with no 'hmms or ahhhs'" - so my practice must be paying off!
#7 Your Voice
Give weight to your voice. Now I don't mean scream or shout. I mean put your weight behind it. Give it volume as in depth. Speak from your core and breathe....
Yes breathe. Not short puffy breaths (I'm an asthmatic, so I know what those breaths are like) but deep inhalations of oxygen. This will help you relax and project your voice better. It will also help you exude better confidence.
Even if you don't feel confident, please please exude it! If you are nervous and show it then your audience is dis-engaged and it's very hard to win them back. They need to believe every word you are saying. Nerves are normal and necessary! Yes they are! My first job was as a broadcast journalist and every time the red light went on my heart thumped through my headphones. It was so tough for me for the first six months of the job. But I stuck with it and learned to embrace and feel the nerves. You have to channel those nerves into helping you deliver a better performance.
Review each and every address you give. Ask the organisers for feedback, ask the attendees for feedback, follow the Twitter feed to see tweets about you, watch the event video back if there is on and ask yourself 'how did I do?' Makes some notes and add it to your 'speaking toolbox' and keep learning about yourself, your speaking style and keep improving.
Have you any other speaking tips you want to share? Please share them below. Do you need a speaker for your event? Download my speaker profile, maybe I'll fit the bill!
Here's what other contributors had to add after reading my blog post. They shared them on LinkedIn and Twitter. So I'll keep updating this blog post with more tips as they come in.
Audrey Carville, RTÉ Broadcaster & Journalist
Wait until the room is completely silent, before you start speaking. Not good to compete for attention.
Bertrand Chauveau, Senior Consultant at Davidson Consulting
Use the space available when presenting. Use the available space on the stage to energise yourself and the audience. Get closer to the public for anecdotes like in confidence mode. Go back to the podium for delivering key messages.
Garry Connolly, Founder Partner GconnTec & President Host in Ireland
Avoid bulleted points and reading your content. Interact with your audience by asking questions or a show of hands for an on-the-spot survey. Leave time for questions and answers.