Great speeches are powerful tools – they can close business deals, cause waves of economic activity and some even change the course of history.
The gift of speaking isn’t a talent that comes naturally to everyone. If you’re planning for a big presentation, pitch or pep talk, be sure to incorporate these seven key elements.
1) Strong word-choice
In a 2016 study, Stanford Business analysed 100,000 presentations and they amassed some interesting findings. First, they concluded that words matter – in fact, word choice in corporate calls can cause stock prices to shift by 2.5%.
Successful speeches are rarely jargon-based; they almost never use hedging language like “kind of” and “I feel”.
The Stanford team also found less is more when choosing words – the more concise the message, the more likely the speech was to be rated ‘effective’.
Charisma can’t be learnt – or can it? In The Charisma Myth, Olivia Fox Cabane argues mindfulness techniques can be used to build the presence and self-compassion required for true charisma.
She tells aspiring speakers to take a few breaths, recall a positive memory and imagine someone displaying warm affection for you. When the feeling of self-acceptance envelopes you, you’ll instantly become more charismatic.
If this all seems too much, you can hire the services of a seasoned speaker from an events bureau such as Speakers Corner. They’ll come armed with mountains of magnetism. Are they born with it, or does practice make perfect? You decide.
3) A novel idea
The best speeches revolve around a central idea. That’s according to the Head of TED, who says ‘the idea should take centre stage, not you’.
Your topic should be novel, or at least presented in a fresh way. This doesn’t mean moving away from your knowledge set. Rather, think of ways to put a fresh spin on the topic you know best.
4) Inspirational storytelling
Public speaking is designed to entertain, but the most successful speeches go beyond this. When we hear something inspiring it drives us to act, which in turn makes the message more memorable.
The trick to creating inspiration lies in fantastic storytelling. This means you should use all the conventions you see in bestselling novels and Hollywood blockbusters – like suspense, interesting characters and a rousing moral message at the end.
5) A measured dose of humour
Successful delivery is all about breaking down the barriers between speaker and audience. Jokes can be a great way to break the ice, since they show confidence and make you seem more relatable.
Topical humour often works best, but avoid dividing an audience or using niche one-liners.
6) Disciplined delivery
Flow is important in public speaking, so rehearse and then rehearse again. Ensure your speech tells a story by dropping key information at the right time – then build up to a satisfying conclusion.
The clock is your friend, not your enemy, so pace yourself carefully. A great way to improve delivery is to record yourself. This way, you can iron out any habits you don’t like to create a sparkling performance.
The best speakers stand poised – not only have they achieved the perfect flow, but they also thrive on interaction with the audience. It’s a balancing act that can take years to perfect.
When you’re starting out, the trick is to make it personal. Make eye contact and use props or visuals to bring your topic to life. You can even adjust tone of voice and body language subtly based on their reactions.
In fact, staying connected with the audience is also important for real-time self evaluation. The best public speakers are able to notice the early signs attention may be slipping. Then, they think on their feet to turn the performance around.