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 I call “happy high status”. Know your audience, know your speech and know (if possible) the space in which you’re to speak. What is called “exposure” (AKA speaking again and again in public) is the only way to get real confidence, but practicing in private is a start. And five minutes of telling yourself that you are “KING KONG” 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, people are wise to this stuff. 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.
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 I call “sharpening the spear”. And 3 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, 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 I like to point out: When Sarina Williams walks on to the Centre Court at Wimbledon, she 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 I mention?) Be prepared “To sound really impromptu,” I say, “rehearse like there is no tomorrow.”
Brandon Hardison – Champion Strategies