Toastmasters is one of the world’s best kept secrets. They are the leading experts at providing economical, effective communication & leadership skill development. Their slogan is “Where Leaders are Made.” Over the past 20 years in Toastmasters I have had thousands of speaking opportunities and I still work regularly at honing my skills.
Tip number Three: Continually challenge yourself. If you were a high jumper for example, you would have to keep raising the bar and making successful jumps to become better. The same thing applies to being a powerful and passionate speaker. You have to keep taking on more challenges. Different types of presentations, different audiences, different venues. Over the past 20 years while in Toastmasters I have had many opportunities to speak to groups of 200 to 300 people. Some were short presentations, some longer and included making announcements, chairing meetings, giving keynote speeches, introducing speakers, evaluating speakers etc. Each of them provided a different challenge and upon completion, each one put a psychological “self-confidence” notch in my belt.
Tip Number Four: Practice doesn’t make perfect! You have no doubt heard throughout your life that practice makes perfect. It’s wrong! Practice repeats mistakes. Practice with constructive feedback and putting the feedback into practice leads to perfection. Can anyone really be perfect? I personally aim for excellence. You have to listen to the suggestions for improvement that evaluators have provided and make them a reality. And believe me, everyone is a critic. I heard a saying once. What direction do you take if you are flying from Kelowna to London, England. East? Not really.
The pilot makes hundreds of course direction changes throughout the journey. He aims at London but keeps correcting his course. They need to allow for wind currents, weather conditions, air traffic etc. To become a powerful speaker you need to be evaluated and act upon those suggestions. As a Toastmaster I have given hundreds of speeches and received evaluation for almost everyone. In fact, almost every time you speak in a Toastmasters meeting, you receive feedback.
Tip Number Five: Write your own introductions. The old sayings are true. You really don’t get a second chance at creating a first impression and people do judge books by their covers. You want to grab your audience’s attention right from the beginning. Don’t leave this to chance. Write your introduction word for word. Instruct your introducer to present it as written, no adlibs, no jokes added, especially anything that takes away from the opening that you have crafted and rehearsed for your presentation. After having learned the hard way a few times with introducers that have said almost exactly what I was going to start off with, it can put you into panic mode having to find comments to replace your original ones. I have learned to control the situation.
You want your introduction to be powerful. It has to answer the questions of why this speaker and why now? You are promoting your credibility at this point. You are also answering the big question that every audience member asks “What’s in it for me?” Your introduction should set you up as the expert on whatever the subject is and the audience is compelled to listen to your message.
The same applies to your closing. You want to leave your audience with a strong call for action, even if your message is just encouraging them to give some thought to your message.
Tip Number Six: Craft your presentation. Your presentation should be written in your own personal style. Every word should add to the message that you are trying to get across. You are trying to convince your audience to do something. It should be written for the spoken word, not the written. Use short sentences. Simpler words. Your audience shouldn’t have to pull out a dictionary to understand what you are saying unless you are the keynote speaker at the annual Lexicologists convention. Lexicology is the part of linguistics which studies words, in case you were wondering.Your gestures and body language should be scripted to the point where they seem natural. Yes I know that seems to be contradictory. But they have to be consistent with your message and that often doesn’t come naturally.
Tip Number Seven: Become a masterful story teller. Have you ever watched celebrity guests on the talk shows? They usually have a humorous anecdote that they casually fit into conversation then they run with it. Stories need to be crafted. They need to provide just enough detail to build excitement and to get your message across. It is often said that good stories aren’t written. They are rewritten and rewritten! Your story should be directly related to the point you want to make, otherwise don’t tell a story. We all have personal stories that we can adapt to illustrate a point that we want to make.
Tip Number Eight: Master your visual Aids. Your Powerpoint Presentation shouldn’t be your speech but it should add to it. You should know how to use it! Anything that you hold up, show or illustrate is considered a prop. Use it as long as it is needed then get rid of it. A prop that is used longer than needed, often takes on a life of its own and can take away from your message. Any thing or object that is in the vicinity of your presentation area i.e. where you are speaking from, can become a prop, negatively or positively. A flag, a plant, a lectern that is in the way can take away from your presentation. Take control of your speaking area, remove extraneous items that can take away from your presentation. Remember to do it before you go up to present. That includes having the lectern out of the way if you aren’t planning on using it.
Tip Number Nine: Passion creates Passion! The passion that you exude in your presentation creates passion in your audience members. Or at least it should! If you aren’t passionate about your subject, who will be? It can be argued that not all subjects are suitable for speaking passionately about. If you aren’t passionate about the subject … don’t speak about it. Let someone else. It is often said that your audience won’t remember the actual words of your presentation however, they are more likely to remember “how” they felt about it. Leave them feeling passionate.
Tip Number Ten: Project your power! This tip ties in with speaking with confidence. You should exude confidence. I like to think that the spotlight is on me and it’s my turn to shine. I actually had a spotlight on me one time that I was on the big stage. I couldn’t see a darn thing, certainly not anyone in the audience. Now I just imagine it. It’s a lot easier on the eyes. The spotlight is actually on you before you even get on the stage. Your mannerisms and behaviour have to be consistent with the image you have on stage. How many times have you seen speakers come up to the stage and say something like …….. “I’m so happy to be here.” “Welcome to sunny Kelowna.” “I have been a public speaker for 42 years and I can’t wait to dazzle you with my brilliance.” This kind of speaker doesn’t dazzle me. They aren’t walking their talk!
Top Photo credit courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons