Most people are shitty public speakers.
That doesn’t mean they’re up on stage sweating through their shirt and stuttering the entire time while shuffling their notecards like Michael J. Fox on a bad day.
You can have perfect composure, smile real big, and know your material cold.
You can even feel ‘confident’ and not have a lick of stage fright.
Here’s a big truth about public speaking, though…
If You’re Not Memorable, You’re A Bad Public Speaker
Don’t sweat it, though: It’s easy to tighten up your public speaking game.
I’ve regularly been giving speeches for the last 11 years and am active in Toastmasters. I’m a lifelong student of the great speakers.
I have a keen eye for what gets results and what’s holding you back.
On top of that, the last few years has seen some incredible public speaking books published.
You should study these thoroughly.
Don’t have time? I already read them for you, you lazy bums.
There’s a lot of powerful shit in those two books but here I’ve outlined the three most impactful, timeless lessons on public speaking according to the world’s most dynamic presenters. Enjoy!
You Can Change Someone’s Mind With Great Storytelling
That headline wasn’t a joke or an exaggeration. Read it again.
Princeton neuroscientist Uri Hasson discovered that the brain activity of a storyteller and the people listening to the story quickly sync up.
Are you getting this amazing shit?!
By telling an engaging story, you are literally making your audience feel what you’re feeling at their most basic, neural level.
How’s that for crowd control?
Let’s hear it straight from the mouth of Dr. Hasson, as he discusses a story being told in English to English-only speakers:
When the [storyteller] spoke English, the volunteers understood her story, and their brains synchronized. When [the storyteller] had activity in her insula, an emotional brain region, the listeners did too. When [the storyteller] frontal cortex lit up, so did theirs. By simply telling a story, the [storyteller] could plant ideas, thoughts and emotions into the listeners’ brains.” – Dr. Uri Hasson
Take a minute and think of how powerful this information is.
The less you assault people with a boring stream of boring data and the more you delight them a rich, captivating narrative, the more you have their reactions in your control.
Do with that what you will and please only use it for good. But, let me ask you a rhetorical question…
What does that mean for how you sell? Give speeches? Speak to your children? Does that change how you see politicians and the mainstream media?
Keep reading and you’ll discover exactly how to tell one of these evocative stories.
Speak & Present Visually To Increase Audience Engagement
Your PowerPoint slides are drowning in text.
You’re suffocating your audience with tables-upon-tables of data.
Eyes are glazing over at your overly complicated explanations.
There’s a very good reason why people don’t like your speech – and it has nothing to do with your content.
In your slides, use vivid visuals to explain your more complex concepts. It helps get your point across in a way that words just can’t do.
…Replace a data table with a rich visuals showing significant results.
…Enhance your explanation about a process with a vivid flowchart.
…Use a simple diagram to convey the jist of a complex concept.
Why Use Visuals Over Words? Because Science Said So.
The human brain is actually wired to process visual information across multiple channels – this means that your brain is going to more deeply understand and remember visually represented knowledge.
Psychology professor Dr. Allen Paivio’s “dual-coding” theory of learning shows how visually-enhanced learning is more effective that verbal:
Concepts that are learned in picture form are encoded are both visual and verbal. Words are encoded only verbally…pictures are more richly stamped in our brains and easier to recall.”
Later backed up by fMRI studies, we now know that a visually-laced presentation is going to improve audience engagement and learning, compared to a text-heavy presentation.
Your Words Should Be Just As Visual As Your Slides
Want to really engage your audience, improve understanding, and have everyone wrapped around your finger?
Then, error on the side of using visual language when you’re speaking and storytelling.
Describe abstract concepts as if you were describing a verdant landscape at sunset – its rolling hills flush with broad oak trees and boldly yellow daisies – to someone who has never been there.
We know now that using vivid, multi-sensory doesn’t just sound cool, it actually looks and feels cool too.
Spanish researchers recently discovered that sensory words actually light up part of the brain associated with that word.
Your Words Can Literally Make People Feel Differently
Subjects who read the word “perfume” and “coffee” had their olfactory cortex light up – their brain thought they were actually smelling a beautiful perfume and a nice shot of espresso!
Unique metaphors such as “her voice was smooth and delicate” and “he had a very firm demeanor” activated the sensory cortex.
Imagine how engaged your audience will be when you enhance your speech with vivid, sensory language? Their attention and retention will make it worth it.
Want To Give A Riveting Speech That Changes Minds? Time Travel.
If you’re standing in front of an audience giving a speech, your goal – whether you know it or not – is to persuade them.
You might not be trying to sell them a product or convince them to vote for you. It’s bigger than that.
Your goal is to convince them to see the world from your vantage point: To tell them a story, take them on a journey through your universe, showing them exactly what matters to you.
This isn’t a skill that only naturally gifted and talented speakers are privy to. No, there’s a simple, logical structure to giving transformational speeches.
Designer and professional storyteller Nancy Duarte broke it down into four beautiful steps:
Step 1: The Situation As It Currently Is
What’s the current state of affairs?
…If you’re a politician, this is the lack of hope that Americans feel as they watch their jobs disappear and their faith in government dwindle.
…If you’re a marketing manager, you look at the spectacular failure of your company’s most recent product launch.
…If you’re a parent, you see your son struggling to stay motivated in school – it rends you to see him this way.
This step often has a bleak, desperate view. It’s meant to. This step serves as a motivating force for us to move away from something that no longer works.
Tony Robbins frequently talks about the power of associating massive pain with staying the same. What happens if you let this carry on into the future? What does your life look like a year out if you don’t take action?
Make your audience simmer in that distinct possibility.
It also creates a powerful contrast to the new, vibrant solution to the current situation…
Step 2: The Situation As It Could Be
What is possible by adopting your ideas?
This is where you give the juicy details of your idea. You discuss the grand ideas. “Here is the glorious answer to the question you never knew to ask”, you say to them.
…The politician shows how his time in office will bring jobs back to his district and revitalize the hollowed out middle class.
…The marketing manager has discovered a brand new, untapped audience to target their newest product line towards.
…The parent finds a new tutor to help his son keep up his grades.
This is where your audience should start to see how your best laid plans will come to fruition. They’re beginning to understand your vision. They can see your goal in the horizon.
You must hammer home your ideas for your audience to truly see them. Once is not enough.
Step 3: You Must Repeat Yourself
If you’ve ever listened to a comedian, listened to a presentation, or read an editorial article, you know the persuasive ‘Power of 3’. (Look closely at my writing – I do it all the time.)
Sentences proclaiming what was, is, or might be are the most punchy and persuasive when three examples are given.
There’s some rhythmically perfect about three. It has the right beat to it. It just makes sense.
Use the ‘Power of 3’ when showing your vision of the future.
Go through (at least) three iterations of “What Is/What Could Be” in your speech. Tell your story with bold, vivid language that creates a wide gap between the bleak present and the inspiring future with your ideas at the helm.
Now, this isn’t simply re-wording things three times over. It’s showing the wide array of ways your ideas will create a better future.
On your final iteration, create a grand view of how your ideas will change all facets of our life.
How will they change your community, revitalize your company and its morale, and invigorate your son’s motivation to learn?
Show me exactly how my life will be made better by adopting your ideas. Paint a picture of a new world where your leadership holds sway.
Step 4: The Call To Arms
Let me cut to the chase: inspiration and motivation is bullshit without action.
Or, said more eloquently by Thomas Edison…
“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration.”
Your inspirational speech means fuck-all if people don’t take your message out into the world. Your audience are your foot soldiers charged with making your vision a reality.
And, like a good general, you must be perfectly clear with your soldiers. You tell them what to do. When to do it. How to do it. And, how much.
For this call to arms to be most effective, make sure you summarize the speech and put a nice bow on things.
Make this final portion of your speech very personal. Look them in the eyes and level with them…
“We’ve all seen what staying complacent will do to us. Hell, we’re living it right now! You know it could be better. But, we know there’s another way, a better way. You know what is possible in the world and you know how to do it. Now, go out there and make this a reality for you and your family!”
This is, arguably, the most important step of the entire process.
By succinctly reminding them of both what’s at stake and what’s possible, while telling them exactly what they can do, you are creating a more realistic, actionable path to your vision of the future.
Changing Minds With Powerful Speaking Is Easier Than You Think
No matter your job or station in life, there is a great need for your influence in your little corner of the world.
Those great ideas will go unnoticed, though, if you can’t convey them in a magnetic, persuasive way that has others want to listen.
Despite your fears of stage fright or forgetting your lines, becoming a memorable speaker is far easier than you think.
Many books and public speaking experts will tell you techniques about body language, gesturing, and pacing your words. These are wonderful and necessary. But, they do not change minds.
To change minds and transform others, you must tell vivid stories that show the audience a new possibility. You do this through painting with a palette of vivid language and visuals. You must show them what a new world looks like and empower them to take action.
With this knowledge available to you, who gives a shit about stage fright when you can change the world around you?!