Talk facts and the audience may nod. Tell a story and they'll stand and cheer.
How often have you heard a public speaker or presenter dominate a conversation not because the story was so interesting but because the speaker was disorganized?
Don't let your head be on the chopping block. Keep abreast of these three public speaking trends and your audience will gobble up your ideas.
- Storytelling continues to be a valued and powerful speaking technique. Leaders will feel the need to become storytellers. Sales professionals will have to let go of their PowerPoint decks and tell the customer’s story.
- Video presentations are exploding. Youtube is the number 2 search engine after google. Video conferencing and remote coaching are growing in popularity due to the virtual workplace. I find that I'm doing more virtual coaching these days. Technology makes it easy. A job applicant will make a more memorable impression with a video resume.
- Audiences care about their own self interests. Attention spans are getting shorter and tolerance for fluff is dwindling. Effective public speakers make the message about the audience. Remember WIIFM: What’s in it for me?
FACT: This Thanksgiving, I'm grateful to have the privilege of the platform and the opportunity to serve my clients.
Last night at the Republican convention, we witnessed public speakers who nailed their presentations. What do Paul Ryan, Condolezza Rice, and Susana Martinez have in common as public speakers? Each and everyone of them shared a personal story. Susana began by telling the story of her immigrant parents.
“Growing up I never imagined a little girl from a bordertown could one day become a governor. But this is America…My parents taught me to never give up and to always believe that my future could be whatever I dreamt it to be.
We grew up on the border and truly lived paycheck to paycheck. My dad was a golden gloves boxer in the Marine Corps, then a deputy sheriff. My mom worked as an office assistant. One day they decided to start a security guard business. I thought they were absolutely crazy. We literally had no savings. But they always believed in the American dream.”
By the reaction of the audience, it was evident that they could relate to the governor's rags to riches story.
Condolezza told of her upbringing as a Black child in the South.
“And on a personal note, a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham - the segregated city of the south where her parents cannot take her to a movie theater or to restaurants - but they have convinced her that even if she cannot have a hamburger at Woolworths, she can be the president of the United States if she wanted to be, and she becomes the secretary of state.”
Finally, Paul Ryan started to tear up as he spoke about his mother.
“My Mom started a small business, and I've seen what it takes. Mom was 50 when my Dad died. She got on a bus every weekday for years, and rode 40 miles each morning to Madison. She earned a new degree and learned new skills to start her small business. It wasn't just a new livelihood. It was a new life. And it transformed my Mom from a widow in grief to a small businesswoman whose happiness wasn't just in the past. Her work gave her hope. It made our family proud. And to this day, my Mom is my role model.”
Paul Ryan, along with the other speakers injected humor and poked fun at Mitt Romney. When acknowledging the generational difference between Romney and himself, he stated,
“There are the songs in his Ipod, which I have heard on the campaign bus.... and I have heard it on many hotel elevators. He actually urged me to play some of these songs at campaign rallies. I said, ``Look, I hope it is not a deal breaker Mitt, but my playlist starts with AC/DC and it ends with Zeppelin.” Ryan ended the speech by bringing his family on stage.
There were many effective public speaking techniques that the speakers used during their presentation-humor, passion, and repetition. But by far, the one skill that connects with an audience is the personal touch. Every audience wants to know three things: Who are you? Who are you to tell me? What’s in it for me? It’s not the facts that move an audience, it’s emotions that get them on their feet.
The audience got a look into the lives of these three presenters and got to know them on a personal level. This will be a challenge tonight for Mitt Romney who tends to be more mechanical and reserved in his presentation. He may be on top of his facts, he may have a plan for turning around the country. But most Americans are thinking, "Who is he?" In order to connect with his constituents, he will need to connect on an emotional level. And nothing is more emotionally powerful than a personal story.
National Speakers Association convention is where you'll find the top speakers in the world on the main stage. A number of years ago, I attended a convention. One of the keynote speakers gave an inspiring and tear jerking presentation. He spoke about how he and his wife couldn't have children so they adopted a couple of boys. They were brothers who were not well treated and were put up for adoption. He told the audience about how difficult it was to gain their trust and parent them. He recounted all the troubled times. In the end, the little boys flourished and his wife discovered she was pregnant. The speaker then brought the little boys on stage. To say there wasn't a dry eye in the house is an understatement. The tears were streaming down my face. My friend looked over and said, "Are you all right?" I told him "I can't take it." The entire audience was overwhelmed by emotion. This speaker was able to pierce each person's heart and trigger an emotional reaction. It takes skill to tell a story that has so much emotional impact. This is a good thing, isn't it? Well, maybe. But this speaker did the one thing you should never do from the platform...
On Sunday morning I watched Joel Osteen, the motivational speaker and pastor of Lakewood Church. He too, had an emotional story to tell. It was about a country singer.
At a young age this singer, had strayed from his values and started hanging around with the wrong crowd. He got involved with alcohol and drugs. His name was on billboards everywhere and Joel's mother would notice the singer's name every time they passed the billboard on the road. Although, she had never met him, she would say a prayer for him. This ritual went on for more than a year. Then one day when the country singer was feeling down on his luck, he wandered into the church where Joel's father was the pastor. An usher recognized him and alerted Joel's mother. She immediately got up and embraced him. She told him about all the times she had prayed for him.
After telling this story, Joel pointed to the country singer who was sitting in the front row. As the camera zoomed in on him, you could see the singer wiping away his tears. It was an emotional crescendo. The audience burst into applause. And, at that moment, Joel said, "Aw, he's not that good." The audience broke into laughter.
Joel did something the first speaker forgot to do. The first speaker opened us up, raw with emotion, and left us there. It was like a surgeon opening a wound but forgetting to close it back up. Joel used humor to break the tension. A seasoned speaker can take you on a roller coaster of emotions. You'll experience the exhilaration of the highs and lows. But they will always bring you back to solid ground. And one of the best ways to do this is through humor.
You may be a good storyteller who can open people to their emotions. But do you finish the job by closing them back up? As a speaker, you have the power of the spoken word. Remember you have the emotions of the audience in your hands. Use your power carefully.
Once upon a time...
We all loved those words as children because we knew we were going to hear a story. Last night, I attended an excellent program - Harnessing the Power of Story to Lead Change.
The speaker, Judy Rosemarin, asked the audience "What is your 'humaway' story?" Just like we leave a theater and start humming the theme song, a message tends to stick in the minds of the listeners when we tell stories. The best public speakers are storytellers.
Some speakers are known for their signature stories. The audience loves to hear the same story over and over because it resonates with them. Stories build trust, create emotional impact, and improve retention. Stories are not just for public speakers but stories serve as a leadership tool. They can help you deliver bad news and lessen the blow.
Judy recounted a situation where a company was going to downsize. The leader began his presentation by telling a story about pruning a tree. Branches needed to be trimmed in order for it to grow. When he finished his story, he transitioned to the pruning of the organization. While people were not happy about the loss in headcount, they understood the big picture.
In networking meetings, people deliver their elevator pitch. This is a statement or a snippet. A more powerful way to introduce your company is with a success story. Stories create a safe haven and create an intimacy. When two people meet they can share themselves through their stories. As Ms. Rosemarin explained, "The shortest distance between two people is a story."