There is a strange sensation often experienced in the presence of an audience. It may proceed from the gaze of the many eyes that turn upon the speaker, especially if he permits himself to steadily return that gaze. Most speakers have been conscious of this in a nameless thrill, a real something, pervading the atmosphere, tangible, evanescent, indescribable.
– William Pittenger, Extempore Speech: How to Acquire and Practice It
A good speaker knows when the attention of the audience has been captured. There is a palpable feeling of connection in the room. This palpable level of connectivity creates a sense of oneness in the room which seems to open the doors to a much higher level of communication between the speaker and the audience. For the speaker, everything seems to transmit itself with utter perfection – even the mistakes. To the audience, the speaker is seemingly speaking directly to each and every one of them as individuals. What’s the secret to speaking with such effectiveness that whole room can feel it? As we are going to learn by following the recipe of some famous public speaking quotes, the secret is an alchemical combination of essential elements, the combination of which can turn your message into gold.
A good speech is something like a good conversation; it should completely engage your listener. You engage your listener not only with your knowledge of the subject matter, but also by talking about it from a place of personal experience. You should not sound like you are reading an objective statistical report. If you have personal experience with your material, then you can bring your subject matter to life with vivid detail. This naturally comes across with authenticity. Authenticity is far more effective than feigned enthusiasm, overheated passion, or plain rhetoric.
You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.
Now the question is, “How do you get your message from your heart to your tongue?” That can be said in three words: preparation, preparation, and preparation.
Preparation for Public Speaking
It usually takes me more than three weeks to prepare a good impromptu speech.
– Mark Twain
While the quote above sounds a bit tongue and cheek, it is the absolute truth when it comes to effective public speaking. Good preparation cannot be underestimated. You begin a good speech by first writing out what you want to say, not because you are going to memorize it and regurgitate it, but rather because memorizing the material will get it into your mind-body like an engram. An engram is “a physical brain change, supposed to take place as a result of experience, and to represent memories.” Memorizing your speech then is something like learning to type on a keyboard or to play the piano. When you know the key strokes, you don’t have to think about where you are going. And once you have encoded those strokes in your memory, you start to creatively improvise. It works the same way with your words. If you memorize what you want to say, you don’t have to worry about what you are going to say because it’s already engrained in your nervous system. Furthermore, if you have really done your research on the topic, then you will be amazed at what you come up with on the fly. Once you have imparted your speech to memory, your mind relaxes and you are able to recall appropriate quotes, stories, and anecdotes that you could never plan. That’s the kind of alchemy we were talking about earlier and the audience definitely picks up on it.
Public Speaking 101: What is Your Point?
There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.
– Alexander Gregg
If you don’t have an authentic point to make, you will not get into the hearts of your audience. Even if you aren’t delivering a research paper, you should research your topic using the formula for writing a research paper. You should have a clear and well-developed message to deliver and everything you say should revolve around that message, from the very beginning of the speech until the end of it. As you research and reflect on what you want to say, think about the marketing concept AIDA: Attention, Interest, Desire, and Action.
Attention: What do you have that captures the attention of the audience?
Interest: What are you telling them that they don’t already know?
Desire: How does what you are saying satisfy their interest in your topic?
Action: What are you trying to achieve with your message?
If you don’t know what you want to achieve in your presentation your audience never will.
– Harvey Diamond
The Delivery of Your Message
Just like the beginning of a good novel or play, the opening scene of your speech is where you can win or lose your audience. If you cannot immediately engage your audience at an emotional level, you will lose their interest. The opening scene of your speech has two essential elements: your body language and your introduction.
Who you are speaks so loudly, I cannot hear what you say.
Ralph Waldo Emmerson
Your speech actually begins before you even open your mouth. From the moment you take the stage, your body language is already talking, and as Emmerson says, sometimes it is talking so loudly that it overpowers what you say. You can overpower someone with too much enthusiasm or too little. Everything has to be just right. What does your body language tell the people around you? If you are speaking in public, you should be conscious of virtually every move you make, not to the point of becoming self-consciously paranoid, but to the point that you would know it if you started picking lint off your clothes or playing with your hair. You can practice by just paying attention to what your body does when you are talking in general. What are your hand gestures and facial expressions? Are your shoulders hunched over? How does your body respond when you are nervous, angry, or happy? By staying aware of these things, you ensure that your body language is syncopated with your message, something the audience will pick up on at an unconscious level. Once you have your subject matter thoroughly imprinted in your nervous system, you just have to learn to stay calm and relaxed during your presentation. Keep your sense of humor close, do not to take yourself too seriously, and most of all,
Make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening.