CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – DECEMBER 1, 2020
Two years ago I attended my first meeting at Golden Gate Toastmasters (GGTM), the largest Toastmasters club in San Francisco. While I didn’t personally feel like my public speaking needed a lot of work, my manager at my job insisted that if I wanted to move into a managerial position, I needed to improve my ability to effectively address a team of people. Over the next two years, I saw not only a large improvement in my public speaking skills, but also an improvement in my all around social skills. I made a ton of amazing friends and contacts, got a wealth of leadership experience, and learned the keys to speaking successfully which had eluded me two years prior. Five of the most important tips I learned are the following:
#1-Stories Over Facts
If there’s only one piece of advice I could give to a new speaker on how to successfully engage an audience, it would be to share his or her stories and experiences instead of regurgitating facts. Our brains are wired to resonate with storytelling, and when things are framed in the form of a story, we are much more likely to engage with and remember the content presented. My dad recently told me about Ronald Reagan’s acumen for storytelling. One example: instead of using facts to describe the deficiencies of Soviet era Communism (e.g. “average incomes are far below U.S. levels, the trains don’t run on time, etc.”), he instead told a joke about a man who had to wait ten years to purchase a car or see a plumber, a much more salient example. In order to inspire others to action, Simon Sinek argues that great leaders should start with the story of why they are doing what they are doing as opposed to diving into a plan on how to do it. Facts are commonplace and any facts that you dig up can easily be copied by someone else. Personal stories on the other hand are something that’s truly unique to you and that add a distinctive touch to any presentation that you give.
#2-The Two-to-One Rule
“In this speech, we’re going to be diving into the intricacies of how the corporate tax system works. I promise this will not be boring!” It was my first time observing a speech in a new Toastmasters club and I can assure you, this promise was quickly broken. The two-to-one rule is a tip that a very experienced evaluator in GGTM shared with the audience that goes as follows: “Have two minutes of entertainment for every one minute of content”. While this may seem excessive to some, I can assure you that your audience will thank you for it. Given that I’m a compulsive reader and read 95% non-fiction, many of the topics I present on are pretty dry in nature. Chess, the history of American advertising, the pros and cons of blockchain…I don’t even think I would make it through my own presentations if I wasn’t cracking jokes over half the time. In order to get people to listen to your message, you need to get and keep their attention. For speeches that are primarily focused on storytelling, I would recommend starting off your stories with a hook to get people interested from the get go. However, for more factual presentations, in which you’ll need to keep people’s attention over a longer period of time, I would suggest slipping in a few jokes, a couple witty remarks, and even a few memes if you’re feeling edgy.