If you’re a speaker, or would like to be, chances are you watch other speakers with a very keen eye.
Maybe you scrutinize the bio. Watch the way they carry themselves on stage. Maybe you judge them based on how relatable they are, or how useful their content is.
And if we’re being honest, you may wonder how we measure up. Could I do that just as well as she is? Could I be maybe even better? Why aren’t I up there, by the way?
I thought the same thing myself, every time I was at an event. Sometimes I was blown away by the speaker. But most of the time, not.
As my own speaking career grows, I have had the opportunity to see and work with even more speakers. And I see the same mistakes over and over again that hold good speakers back from being great.
1 | They underestimate the power of story.
Nothing compels and connects like story. Meaning: narrative examples of other humans. Versus, say, statistics.
If you’re about to get up in front of a group of people, realize, they’re going to pay closer attention to stories, and care more about them than pie chart. Never sacrifice story to put in more information, because stories are what help us digest and interpret information. A bar graph with 12 pt font is the death knell of attention.
2| They think their topic is interesting (or boring).
Ah! A common mistake that everyone makes. There IS no such thing as a boring or interesting topic.
You can make anything interesting, and anything boring. It’s all in the positioning and articulation of the talk. BUT. If you think your topic is too boring—or already interesting—you’re not doing the work to make it compelling. I’ve seen one person make Excel spreadsheets look like fun, and another make sex toys look like a snooze.
3| They assume the audience is on the same page.
They are not. Assume the audience has zero context for what you’re saying—even if they’re in your industry.
That doesn’t mean you patronize or talk down to them. But it does mean provide enough context that we can follow you, because we’re really not. In fact—sorry—what were you just saying?
Assume we’re intelligent but are walking in cold (because we are), and we’re also very distracted. If someone stops following you, what you’re saying, or what you mean, they don’t listen harder. They tune out.
A great talk isn’t one that’s delivered by a sales consultant or a bigger personality than you. It’s one that’s both universal…and uniquely yours.
This means that as long as you have a very clearly articulated and relevant point and do the work to make it matter to your audience, trust me, you’re doing more than most. Some people stroll on stage and pop open a can of spam. And everyone knows it.
I can’t say it enough: Your stories, your insights, your ideas—not cliche, not motivational mumbo-jumbo—has the power to change the way someone sees their work, their job, even their lives. Make it count.