[Toastmasters] Inspiring Your Audience

Random Observation/Comment #279: Being more comfortable with public speaking has made my overall life better because of the extra confidence and effective communication with my peers and managers.  I’m glad I’ve faced this fear – best choice ever.

Inspirational? Well.. really just a cool pic

If you follow the Toastmasters Competent Communicator speeches, you’ll find that it walks you through 10 specific areas that will make your speech excel.  The guide breaks down different techniques (e.g. speaking with body language, voice inflections, etc.) and asks the presenter to specifically exaggerate the techniques highlighted for each speech.  The repeated practice of these major techniques hopefully leads you to improve iteratively.  The overall program is structured as followed:

  1. Icebreaker – Talk about the most comfortable topic – yourself J
  2. Organization and Being Concise – Content module on organization and staying on topic
  3. How to Say it, Body Language, and Vocal Variety – Stage presence module to connect with audience
  4. Research the topic, Visual Aids, and Persuasive speaking – More advanced techniques and tips that will make your speech polished
  5. Inspire your Audience – Honing all the skills you’ve learned on a topic that you’re passionate about

By the time you reach “Inspire your Audience”, you will hopefully also read public presentation books and learn little tips and tricks from watching other presenters.  It’s important to see the following trends in an excellent inspirational speech:

  1. Topic – In great speeches, this is always either the life’s work or deep passion of the speaker. You can tell by the way their eyes light up when they tell you about the issues and the stories.  It’s something they can probably speak for hours about if you met them at a bar randomly.  When you pick your inspirational speech topic – make sure it is something you’re passionate about.
  2. Stories – Many of these are personal and relate to friends/family or common situations, which draws the audience into a very casual and conversational connection.  These are meaningful and usually come with some humor to make the audience nod and smile at the same time.  Carefully place stories within the structure of the presentation to help everyone relate the ideas.
  3. Body Language – If not animated, the presenter of a great speech will at least look comfortable on the stage. They will not shuffle or play with their hair, but rather stand with confidence and convey their ideas.  Remember that if you were never good at using the full stage, it’s important to at least not do distracting habits to draw away from your speech.
  4. Voice inflection – Along the same lines as the confidence factor, the presenter usually speaks conversationally with significant use of pauses and uniform pace to keep the audience interested.  If you’re not good at acting out other people’s parts in a story with a conversation, at least tell the story with enthusiasm and a smile.  To practice, listen to audiobooks and follow along.
  5. Involving the Audience – A very useful technique is to poll the audience questions so they raise their hands and get to see the result of a quick consensus amongst the crowd.  Make sure the question makes sense and try to adjust it so you involve more people if none raise their hands. It’s a good way to get people to look around and see who else is interested in your topic.
  6. Call to Action – Since the overall purpose of the speech is to inform your audience of an issue or share with them a thought-provoking idea, a large part of the overall conclusion will include a recommended action by the audience to forward the cause. The combination of a summary and main takeaway from the speech at least makes the speech more memorable afterwards. Make sure you highlight this takeaway separately and provide a pause before you say it.

This list can get pretty long when filled with tips and tricks, but the most important thing to remember when you’re up there is that everyone in the audience is on your side. They want to know what you know (even if they’re not for your particular cause).  When you give a great speech, at least they will still say “Wow! That was excellent, and presented with a strong argument.”

Practice and I’m sure you’ll be fine.

~See Lemons Inspired

Important: The more you observe good speakers, the better you’ll become and build your own methods of connecting with the audience. TED Talks!