There are many ways to influence an audience, and it's not always through the content and style alone. Great speeches have not only been crafted well but need great speakers to deliver them.
Whilst most of my tutorials are aimed at the physical aspects of speaking, this blog is about performance techniques. I've compiled six of my favourite tips in taking control over your delivery so you can ensure the most impact when presenting yourself in public.
Entering with intention.
Your performance doesn't begin when you start speaking. The moment you step out from behind that door, stage curtain or screen in front of an audience, you are on show and, therefore, unconsciously judged on your actions.
Knowing this means that you can be prepared, so setting your intention before you walk on will give you the edge placing you in charge of how your audience views you, rather than being at the mercy of their opinion.
There are many ways you might do this, depending on your topic. Still, a simple and effective strategy that will give you a head start is by calculating your entrance beforehand and taking the time to prepare the journey from the door to the microphone, podium or red circle step by step.
Then, once that journey is preplanned, all you need to do is laser-focus on your mark and go directly there, head held high, shoulders back and making sure to take a long slow inhalation as you walk toward your position. The act of breathing in as you enter the stage unconsciously signals physiological growth and vitality to the audience, who will favour you more as a result.
The tennis ball rule.
It's always a little daunting to know exactly how to begin your speech, but you can feel safe knowing that there is some benefit in timing your first words according to the size of the room you are in.
Whether you are in a small meeting room or a grand arena, the tennis ball rule will dictate precisely when you should begin speaking after entering and arriving at your place.
We each analyse each other based on our own experiences and preconceptions. This becomes heightened in a live spoken word scenario. If too long a pause is left at the start of our talk with nothing happening, an audience's instinctual presuppositions might turn to judgements, and everyone's worst critic starts to rear their ugly heads.
Likewise, if this initial opening period is too short, we feel something is missing and can become irritated or lost.
The trick is to hit the sweet spot and begin speaking at an appropriate time, ensuring our audience feel comfortable and ready to listen.
This is where the tennis ball technique comes into play.
Once you hit your spot on stage. In your mind, throw an imaginary tennis ball out to a person sitting at the back of the room. Then imagine they throw it straight back, and when you catch it is now the correct timing for you to speak.
The further you are from the audience, the longer you should wait to speak. No matter if you have a microphone or not. This is because the further you are, the smaller you appear and the longer it takes your audience to take in you as a person.
This is also great for timing your first out-breath and in-breath before speaking those first all-important words.
Give it a go next time. It's a handy tool in gauging the timing for your opener.
Gear up to your default speaking pace.
At this point, you've entered and timed your walk on perfectly, you've shown how confident and secure you are, you've also given your audience enough time to take you in and have taken the time to absorb the vibe of the room at the same time.
Your first words are ever so key to getting the audience on your side. And again, not only with the content but with your approach.
You have to ensure that you don't drive away too soon. Whatever your default pace is (and trust me, we all have one), live scenarios tend to produce adrenaline, and this can make us speed up. This isn't a bad thing and can actually keep the event ticking along and the energy high, but you can't just start at full speed because no one will be able to keep up and they will feel left behind.
In much the same way a manual car speeds up, needing to change gears to get to its maximum, you can do the same and start from the top of your speech in neutral (slow). Then one, after a sentence, gear up to two, then three, four and maybe even keep five in reserve.
The great thing about this is it allows your audience to listen and speed up with you. Even if you end up speaking at a hundred miles an hour, they will have the opportunity to gradually get their listening up to speed.
If, however, your pace goes from zero to a hundred too quickly, you are likely to lose your audience before you've even begun.
Highlight key points and let them sit.
If you have crafted your presentation or speech, I'm sure you will have poignant points and facts highlighted in your mind or even on any slides.
If not, then may I suggest you put them in. Highlighting key points helps make a concise and direct memorable note of anything you want to stand out and stay in people's heads.
Perhaps it's a statistic or a fact or even bringing attention to a problem or solution for that matter, but either way, you need to first recognise what these are and then make them stick.
In the context of speaking, you can take the most important word or sentence from each section of your speech and, at the end of the paragraph or section, finish it off by repeating the crucial part again and leaving a pause for thought. Repeating the crucial part again and leaving a pause for thought!
This pause could easily be the tennis ball technique again and allow just enough time for the last words you said to stick in the listener's mind.
You can also do this by repeating the important points twice. But again, if you do repeat, be sure and leave enough pause for it to sink in and hit home.
If you can master this, then at the end of your speech, you will have made an impact, and everyone in the room will be able to recall your main points automatically, even if they can't remember all the details. It could even be a good impetus for further conversation and questions.
Action your speech.
Actions are tools used by actors and can be a helpful way to control how you influence an audience.
Actioning is another way of describing the use of 'active verbs', and these work by giving you stimulus in how you approach an audience.
It helps you choose your attitude and focus on 'giving to' rather than 'being in front of an audience.
Examples of active verbs are flirting, scolding, comforting, enchanting, educating and thousands more.
Whether or not you are very good at being accurate is not as important as giving it a go. Once you try to influence your audience using active verbs and affecting them with your speech, you stop feeling so self-aware and can concentrate more outside of yourself, allowing your content to flow and your inner voice to quieten.
This one is tricky and can take a bit of practice, but it is a powerful tool that can take your speech to the next level and beyond.
Before we go into the sixth and final tip: If you would like to understand these concepts in more detail and feel you would benefit from a complete course on public speaking. Here is a link to my comprehensive study programme, Public Speaking Mastery.
In this powerful course, you will dive deeper into these and many other techniques to develop an individual practice that incorporates the physiological, psychological, and performance-based aspects associated with public speaking.
It has given many people the ability to speak in all public scenarios with clarity, confidence and ease.
Gearing down toward the finish line.
The two most important parts of your speech are how to start and how to finish. And just like the car gearing up at the start of the speech, you can do the same a couple of sentences before the end of your address to wrap up not only with words but with pace.
This will indicate to your listeners that you are bringing the speech to a close. Much like we began by changing up through the gears to arrive at our default speaking pace, we can slow down in a reverse manner. Moving from gear four to three to two to one, you will inadvertently inform your audience that the talk is coming to a close, indicating preparing themselves for the finish.
It's really a lovely way to round up your speech and also allows the tone to be one of thoughtfulness and retrospection. Which, I'd argue, are great things to have achieved by the end of your presentation.
You can find a video tutorial covering the same information here... Again, take a look at the In-depth and empowering Public Speaking Mastery course should you wish to really level up in your game and become the best you can be. Please leave a comment if you have any questions or curiosities. I look forward to conversing with you.
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