CHAMPION STRATEGIES – PUBLIC SPEAKING WORKSHOP – NOVEMBER 13, 2020
How to hold a crowd
Be confident Speaking is a confidence trick: if you’re comfortable, so will be the audience, and vice versa. You want to project what Viv Groskop calls “happy high status”. Know your audience, know your speech and know (if possible) the space in which you’re to speak. What Groskop calls “exposure” (AKA speaking again and again in public) is the only way to get real confidence, but practising in private is a start. And five minutes of Wonder Woman beforehand can’t hurt either.
Be authentic “So often, people go to the podium and, for all sorts of reasons, pretend to be something they are not,” says Simon Lancaster (author of Speechwriting: The Expert Guide). “People are wise to this bullshit. Just be yourself (which sounds easier than it really is).” That means being the best version of yourself. Speak with notes (advised) or without them if you’re super-confident. But reading the entire speech from a sheet of paper kills the spontaneity (“Readers can’t be leaders”).
Be appropriate Knowing your audience has always been the key to successful oratory. If you’re hoping to persuade, gauge not only the audience’s starting position but where you’re hoping to – and can realistically expect to – move them to; and the arguments most likely to appeal to them.
Be brief You’re competing against every smartphone in the audience. That means grabbing the attention fast, which is perhaps why opening with: “I want to tell you a story …” has become a TED talk cliche. However you do it – a joke, a startling fact, a narrative hook – you need to do what Graham Davies calls “sharpening the spear”. And three clear strong points in support of your argument will fare better than 14 vague, weak ones.
Be smart with the technology Use a lectern to hold your notes, not as a bulletproof screen between you and the audience. Pretend it isn’t there. The average PowerPoint slide, says Carmine Gallo, has 40 words on it. That’s far too many. One TED talk with 7m views was 25 slides in before they hit 40 words in total.
Be sober A drunk audience (or at least a slightly drunk one) is a boon to a speaker. The formula doesn’t work so well in reverse. As Davies points out: “When Roger Federer walks on to the Centre Court at Wimbledon, he hasn’t had a couple of swift ones.” But a large glass of the red infuriator in the speaker’s eyeline can be a powerful incentive to brevity.
… and (did we mention?) Be prepared “To sound really impromptu,” Davies says, “rehearse like hell.”
Make It A Champion Day!