It only takes seconds for someone to decide whether they will engage with your message or not. If you can’t master your message and public speaking technique at an event long enough for your audience to make a decision about whether to buy from you or not, the chances of your success range from slim to none.
For your listeners to put faith in what you are saying, your messages must be relevant, compelling and sticky, and your public speaking prowess must be masterful. It is relatively easy to secure yourself a speaking gig and find yourself in front of an audience of potentially hungry buyers, but if you want these people to absorb your message and to consider offering you money for your services, you have to become someone who is not only worth listening to, but worth remembering.
It doesn’t matter if you are selling a physical product, a message, a service, or if you are looking to change the world – your competition is fierce. To master the art and science of public speaking, you must have a systemised approach to communication techniques, and only compare your speaking skills to those of the greatest speakers in the world.
So what draws a mediocre or a good speaker apart from a speaker who has mastered their technique and secures sales from those they speak to? Here are 9 communication techniques and elements that help make a skilled public speaker.
1. Nail the opening and the closing of their speech
A great speaker knows that the most imperative times to grab hold of your audience are at the very start of the speech and at the very end; the start attracts their attention, and the closing segment decides whether your message will be remembered.
It has been suggested that an audience member will have decided whether a speech is worth their time within 10 seconds of a speaker taking the stage. Whether this is an exaggeration or not, it illustrates how essential it is that your listeners are engaged as early as possible, so make sure you begin every speech with something attention-grabbing. Likewise, make your concluding 30 seconds an evaluation of all you have said, something memorable, and (if necessary) include a clear call-to-action.
2. Present their speech as a story
People are naturally inclined to pay attention to stories, so even if you don’t make your speech a literal story, you can still structure your presentation in a similarly coherent format, with a crystal-clear beginning, middle and an end. One of the reasons that TED talks are so popular and engaging is because they are often story-driven, and tied around the shape of a journey or an anecdote.
3. Know their audience
There is no point in giving a technical presentation about the intricacies of a niche subject if your audience would be better suited to a broad yet intriguing introduction. Similarly, if you are presenting to an audience of specialists, giving them a generalised presentation about a topic that they will already be experts in is going to label you as an amateur who is not worth anyone’s time.
If you have ever been to the same event, or a similar event, before, bear in mind the approaches and communication techniques that have worked effectively in the past, and those that have failed to provoke a positive reaction.
4. Use body language confidently and effectively
Plant your feet rather than shuffling on the spot or wandering about, and when you signal with your hands, do so in a purposeful manner rather than twiddling, fiddling or gesturing vaguely. Body language can make or break a presentation, because if an audience sees that you are nervous, they are more likely to feel awkward themselves and disengage or walk away. Refined speaking skills involve more than just vocal techniques!
5. Engage their audience by asking them questions, or even getting them moving
An effective communication technique that will often engage an audience is to ask them questions to spur their minds into action. Challenge them, stretch their imaginations, provoke them and force them to think – though obviously do this respectfully rather than in an arrogant way, unless you want your audience to dislike you.
Being careful not to appear cheesy, you can even consider having your audience stand up or move around, depending on what your presentation is about. Even a simple vote by having your audience raise their hands or stand up can be enough to get their blood pumping and their brains more engaged.
6. Practise a speech until it feels natural
Unless you are an actor in a play, there is very little that is engaging about a speaker reeling off a pre-arranged, carefully memorised list of words. The best presentations feel spontaneous and energetic, so practise the speech enough to know the concept and the narrative drive well, but be flexible enough so that it doesn’t become a word-for-word recitation every time.
7. Are comfortable with silence
Sometimes, even experienced public speakers lose track of themselves and need to take a moment to breathe or reclaim their train of thought. Try not to fill every space with an “um” or an “er”, because even when you are pausing due to nervousness or to remember what you were saying, a moment of silence can be an effective way to re-focus your audience. Don’t fear silence; use it to your advantage.
8. Are authentic
Don’t try to become someone you are not, because you are unlikely to fool your audience, and will probably make them either uncomfortable or see you as untrustworthy. Embrace what makes you and your speaking style unique.
9. Are passionate
An audience that senses your passion for a subject, service or product is likely to feel at least a sense of that passion themselves. Passion isn’t something that can be faked though, so it is your job as a speaker to find the elements of your topic that fuel your interest. One of the most impactful speaking skills is transferring the energy of your presentation across the audience.
What speaking skills do you rate most highly? What communication techniques have worked effectively for you in the past?
If you would like to learn more about communication techniques and speaking skills, view the events we are currently running here.
You can also learn more of the secrets that make a successful entrepreneur by reading Mark Homer’s book Uncommon Sense, which you can find here.