Tuesday, June 19, 2012

7 Tips for Speakers and Wannabe Speakers


When I hear a speaker, I tend to listen with two body parts: I fine tune my heart, to hear what God is saying that might change my life. And I listen with my brain, so I can assess what works and what doesn't as a speaker interacts with her audience. Because I am also a speaker, I want to learn from others what works and what doesn't.
At a recent women's conference, I made these notes to myself:
  1. DO smile a lot, to engage your audience. Genuine smiles cover a multitude of mistakes. 
  2. Transparency endears you to your audience. "I have a confession to make" piques my curiosity, but DON'T give too many gory details, or I want to run out screaming.  
  3. DO engage your audience on a personal level. Ask questions, have them give 30-second shoulder rubs to each other, and address a few by name.
  4. DON'T draw attention to your actions that don't fit with your message. "Oops--my microphone is slipping, I need to fix it," or, "I'm going to get a drink of water here," etc. Just take care of it, and trust your audience to understand.
  5. If you chose a short dress, DO wear pantyhose. Bare legs look unprofessional for a speaker at a larger venue than someone's back yard.
  6. Even a funny, great story needs to be concise and to the point. DON'T ramble and repeat, or we lose interest.
  7. DO show us how you put the principles into practice in your own life, to convince us you know what you are talking about.
When you hear a speaker, read a book, or watch a movie, do you listen with more than one body part? How does what bugs or excites you reveal about your heart, or the speaker/author/actress?

21 comments:

  1. Solid advice.

    I recently spoke to a large group of women (about 260) and broke Rule #4. As I stepped onto a different section of the stage, part of it started teetering. It caught me so off-guard that I mentioned it. Unfortunately, that was right at a critical point in my speech. I grow frustrated watching the video of that event! If I had just been able to keep MY mind focused, I wouldn't have distracted their minds and the emphasis of the talk would have been stronger.

    Fortunately, our God is bigger than our mistakes and, while I hate making mistakes, I know His grace is greater and reaches further. All glory to Him!

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    1. Tanya: Well, I think a tottering stage counts as a good exception to that rule! And I agree that the Lord is bigger than all our mistakes. It's the constant little comments about minor things that tend to distract us.

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  2. I'm not a speaker and never intend to be and I never really analyzed why I do or don't care for a speaker. However, after reading your tips I now understand why I like some and don't care for others.

    I really wish I could hear you speak!

    Blessings as you speak!

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    1. Dear Barb: You are so sweet. I need to have a #1 cheerleader plaque made and send it to you! I can always count on you to make my day! Thanks.

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  3. Thanks for these wonderful tips. While I've spoken to small groups of women in church settings before, I'm looking forward to speaking at a major venue in September. I need all the help and advice I can get and am going to print this out and tack on the wall to review every day.

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    1. Wow, that's great, Carol! Every day might be a bit much, but I appreciate the applause.

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  4. Good tips!

    I like to listen to speakers that engage me on a personal level - ones I feel a connection with.

    Deanna

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    1. We like to know they are human, don't we?

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  5. Loved these tips. I'm not at all a great speaker. I've done well when necessary, but I get so nervous each time.

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    1. I think a lot of writers are introverts, Loree. Don't feel bad. I, unfortunately and fortunately at once, am a ham.

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  6. Hi Jeanette,
    I'm a speaker too and agree with all your pointers.My favorites are #1 and 2. Don't underestimate the power of nonverbal communication with an audience. When I coach my students in public speaking, I also advise them to:
    1. Never admit they are nervous--It lowers their credibility in the eyes of the audience.
    2. Don't apologize for mistakes, problems, errors in the speech or with visual aids. It's like shining a spotlight on your mistakes. An unsuspecting audience might not have noticed these until you pointed them out. Just keep your focus on the message and keep going.

    Thanks for a great post!

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    1. Excellent additions, Ava! Thank you so much for sharing them with us.

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  7. I am working on 4 talks for a retreat in April. I will remember your tips.

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    1. You are? That's wonderful! I'll be speaking at a church up your way in August! I'd love to meet you, Glenda.

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  8. I've taught a great deal over the years, and learned a thing or two.

    1) Avoid cliche illustrations. If you've heard a dozen speakers use a story, so has your audience.

    2) Wear comfortable shoes. Getting a cramp in your foot will end your talk in record time.

    3) Use examples people understand. Farming stories won't fly in urban settings.

    Blessings,
    Susan :)

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    1. These are excellent, Susan. Thank you for adding them!

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  9. Good points! I will say that I think speakers can get away with being bare legged in FL. LOL
    I don't care for fakeness in a speaker and sometimes if I don't agree with what they're saying on one count, it makes everything else suspect.
    Smiles are so important. Speakers shouldn't be too stern, imo. (except maybe preachers, lol)

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    1. Okay, Florida and Cali. are the two exceptions, Jessie!

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  10. Jeanette:
    My voice doesn't carry well. I prefer not to do much public speaking. But, like you, I listen with my heart and my brain. I get a little edgy when a speaker gets off track from the message.

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  11. Thought of you as I was working on a speech this very morning. Very timely post. Are you still speaking after the initial rush?

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Oh, it's YOU! I'm so happy to see you here today, and look forward to reading your comments.