It was apparently Winston Churchill who confessed to overcoming his fear of public speaking by picturing his audience naked. A brave and bold man to the core – this is perhaps something he, and his audience had rather he hasn’t acknowledged. Our modern MP’s would give their spin doctors apoplexy at such a revelation.
Speaking at events comes with the job of being an agency evangelist. So here are the four aspects of public speaking that help me and which I believe can be applied to any type of content: film, photography, blogs, long-form… you name it.
- Information. Credible. Believable. Supported. Sourced. Facts. Obvious, but how many presentations have you listened to that actually don’t contain any facts or information? Or… worse… too much pure, undiluted information. I follow two simple principles when it to comes to presentations
- give the audience something they didn’t know – surprise them
- give the audience something practical they can use straight away
- Illustrate everything. For every fact, for every point you make – visualise it for your audience. The human mind is a picture gallery – not a book – and it’s our role to hang pictures in it. Tell a story, show an image, a video, make it humorous… it doesn’t matter what, just illustrate it and make it come alive. I always come back to the Catholic church – an organisation that grew rapidly using images, music and architecture as illustrations of what its purpose and brand was about.
- Speak from the subconscious. We know when someone is speaking from their head or from their heart (what we can call the subconscious). When we ‘think’ our whole body changes, our brain focuses, our eyes focus, distractions are phased out… our brain puts all its energy into finding the fact, link or connection we’re looking for. When you let your subconscious lead – when you don’t think – when you speak out of passion about what you ‘know’, you instantly become a more engaging speaker and, most importantly – won’t lose your connection with your audience or what you’re talking about. What does this mean when you’re preparing your presentation.
- Believe totally in what you’re saying – immerse yourself in it, live it, breathe it, love it. Be converted by it
- Connect what you’re going to tell to images and stories from your own life – it helps you remember, helps the audience understand (see above) and makes it more real (hence more authentic.
- Reduce your presentation to a number of key points – islands – so you know where to go when you’re presenting. Islands are safe ground and whilst you may get a little lost in between, you know where you’re heading and you’re never more than a few sentences from familiar ground.
- Your audience is the key. Of course… but this, for me, is the most exciting part of speaking. Audiences don’t just listen to what is being presented, they also shape it. They say the eyes are the window to the soul. You need to maintain eye contact and let your body do the rest. Without being conscious of it, your body will automatically adjust tone, speed, body language, standing positioning, use of humour and so on to maintain connection and engagement. It’s the equivalent of autopilot on a plane. Speaking is not a monologue but a dialogue with your audience. Like a shoal of a tiny fish – constantly adjusting to each other – acting as one.
Whether it’s a presentation, a film, a blog… all the content we make should be rooted in information, stories, passion and a dynamic relationship with the audience.