When you get up to speak, you have just a few seconds to “hook,” your audience. And, then, assuming you have them “hooked,” you have to “keep them on the line,” and then “reel them in.”
There are two clear parts to this process.
Part 1 (Aristotle called this “Invention”) – have something valuable to say to this audience. Meaning — prepare well, prepare thoroughly, and organize your thoughts following the best approaches to speech organization.
Part 2 (Aristotle called this “Delivery”) – deliver your thoughts in a captivating, engaging way.
Here are the three critical elements of such a captivating delivery:
#1 – Be easy to understand.
Speak loud enough to be heard. (Speak loud enough to be heard easily by the person sitting in the back row of your audience). Pronounce your words clearly/fully. Don’t ever mumble! And use variations in tone and volume (vocal variety and verbal punch) to make some words – the most important words — stand out above others. This is kind of a verbal bolding of key words.
#2 – Be sure to connect to this audience by using your eyes and body.
Look your audience members in the eye – “eyeball to eyeball” — one audience member at a time. Lean forward, toward your audience. If the room is “wide,” turn your entire body to the section of the room you are speaking to at any given moment. And if you speak from notes or a manuscript (that is fine, by the way…), know your material so very well that you can maintain almost constant eye contact with your audience.
#3 – Be sure to demonstrate energy and passion about your subject with your body movements and gestures.
Go to youtube and look at any good “movie speech” (check out the one by Al Pacino in Any Given Sunday) or any Steve Jobs speech. (Watch this Steve Jobs video — he even gestures and moves while sitting on a stool). Or practically any of the TED Talks.
Here’s my tip: watch a few minutes with your sound off. What do you notice? The speaker is moving, gesturing. Almost constantly. Not in a purposeless, “pacing,” distracting fashion. But in a purposeful, “I’m excited about this subject, and can’t wait to tell you more” fashion.
You really do need to use gestures. Lots of gestures. Different gestures. Vary your gestures! Gestures signal energy, and energy is very engaging.
Call these three the “basics.” There are many “refinements” – other elements to work on over the long haul. But, get these three right, and you’ve got a shot at being a more effective speaker.