What are the secrets of their success, and how can you, too, speak so that
people will listen?
You must be natural and be yourself. Your personality is what will put your
points across most strongly – over-polished professional orators can be cold and
off-putting and fail to engage people’s sympathies. In fact, it’s even okay if
you make a mistake, it can make you look more human.
Whether you’re speaking to two or 200 people, understand what their concerns
and issues are likely to be and acknowledge them and deal with them. Find common
ground, people need to know you can see their point of view before they’ll
listen to yours.
Decide beforehand the purpose of your speech or presentation. Know what you
want to achieve and have a clear direction. Know, too, what you want your
audience to gain and tell them what they can expect to get from the experience.
Present a clear, well-informed message – three main points is an ideal to aim
for; pithily, powerfully and imaginatively delivered.
Don’t dwell on dry facts, humanise them with stories, quotes, anecdotes and
personal experiences that put those facts in perspective. Use statistics to make
your point and give examples and metaphors to add colour and drive it home.
Make eye-contact with as many of your audience as you can. Be animated and
expressive; vary the pace, pitch and tone of your performance and use gesture
and stillness to emphasise different points. Even when you’re making a speech
give the impression that it’s a conversation with your audience – ask rhetorical
questions, anticipate reactions, address concerns – make them feel involved and
A strong ending is memorable. Summarise your main points; deliver a final
story or quote to reinforce them and give a call to action – what you want your
audience to take away from the experience, what you want them to have gained
and/or what you want them to do as a result.
Lynn Williams is a career coach who writes on job search
and career issues and is the author of Readymade CVs; Readymade Job Search
Letters; The Ultimate Interview Book and The Ultimate Job Search Book, all
published by Kogan Page
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