Great speakers are definitely a breed apart. Even though they may come from different parts of the world or represent various cultures and movements and speak different languages, there are a few things in common that enable them to leave a mark in the world of oration. It is always worth knowing how they are able to influence people and lead them to action. The most powerful speakers and the most motivational speeches all seem to have these in common.
Characteristics of a Good Speaker:
1) Good Preparation
It is one of the key factors that is needed to deliver a great speech. Learn to speak in clear and comprehensive lecture notes. Practice several times, in front of the mirror, in front of a group of people. Practice the speech until you are confident about the content. Make sure you understand each and every word of lecture or speech. Again, while practicing the speech give great care to the voice, the tone, and the timing of the speech. Finally, do not simply read your presentation notes. Good preparation requires practice.
“Practice makes perfect.” Though an overused cliché, it is definitely applicable to that of good preparation.
It is interesting to watch speakers ooze with confidence and charisma. It is their self-confidence that gets reflected on the audience. Hence it is very important for a speaker to be completely confident about themselves and the content of what they are going to present. Do not make the mistake of apologizing for your poor language skills or lack of knowledge on the topic at the beginning of the speech. It will be a disaster like nothing else. It will only be difficult for you to make the audience have confidence in you. Instead, make it a joke. Entertain the audience. It is an irony but the greatest comedians who seem to be clumsy are those who have the greatest confidence.
Confidence begins with the ones you are most comfortable with. This is a rule of thumb for confidence. That is, “Get comfortable being uncomfortable.” Seriously! This may seem like a joke to you but it is real. After you are able to talk to an audience of 30 people, go ahead and talk to 100 people. Confidence is always gained by experience. You will realize how easy it is to speak to an audience of 50 people after the experience of speaking to one with 100 people. That is so even when you are frightened and horrified during your first give a speech in front of 100 people. Confidence, as it is, is a huge topic and it depends a lot in oneself.
Responsiveness of the speaker makes the audience livelier. Great speakers make it a point that they speak ‘with’ the audience and not ‘to’ the audience. It is very important for the speaker to make eye contact with the audience. It is very likely that you may find friendly faces among the audience. Make use of the opportunity to interact with them. Do not make the mistake of talking back to the wall behind the audience or to the lecture notes. Your interaction level with the audience will also reflect your confidence.
Why do we always doze off in school? Because everything is so monotonous and boring. There is no response. The teacher only talks to the students and never engages with them. Engagement is the number one rule of responsiveness. Engagement comes in many forms. An engaging speaker can engage with the audience emotionally, verbally, physically, or psychologically. It is up to your creativity. Let’s illustrate this with an example. I had been requested to give a speech in a high school in 2012 about my personal success. Mind you! That’s a lot of students and a lot of people that I’m facing! I went up the stage, nervous and fearful. I took a quick glance among the students’ faces and I came to a realization. I spoke about something of which the principal would rant at me about later on.
I told all the young faces: “You guys look really tired. If any of you wanna go home now, get the fuck off right now. I’ll give you a minute to do so. If not, I request 200% of your attention in the next 20 minutes as I share with you the journey of a man who quit school at the age of 16. He is right now, giving a speech in front of you.”
Common question: “Did you really say fuck off?”
Hell yeah I did. But you know what? I connected and engaged with my audience immediately. All of them gave me their fullest attention while still gasping in shock. After my talk, I received a truly loud and warm applause from those young faces. It was a truly rowdy exit as the teacher took very long to calm the students down. In the speech that I gave to my audience, I used vulgarities pretty damn frequently. It is not because I am an uncouth man. I was once a student and I know that this works. This would connect me with my audience.
This is just a personal example of how responsive a speaker should be. A good speaker should always be flexible. This is the game of life. In the constantly changing world that we live in, responsiveness and flexibility are the two tools that we must live with in order to flourish.
While preparing for the speech, take a look at the speech and see if the points are organized in a manner in which that can be followed by the audience. The audience will be appreciative if the speech is delivered in simple and specific statements.
Any great speech will have a smooth transition from one point to the other. Great speakers seek help from, not just the words, but also from the gestures and body movements to get this desired result. Clarity can also be gained by using various visual tools like charts, graphs, and pictures. It will help the audience to comprehend the complex points you are trying to make. To have the best results, the visual messages should be complemented by oral presentation. Be sure to know what you are talking about and convey it clearly.
Enthusiasm is an essential element in any successful speaker. It is the ability to feel and express enthusiasm that defines a good communicator. This is one attribute that can turn an otherwise complex speech into one that is memorable. Enthusiasm can come only through proper amount of preparation and energy. Good speakers analyze their speech and note the areas where they need to stress the point or say it aloud. They communicate their interest in the topic to the audience. Look at the few most powerful speakers in history. Steve Jobs, Nelson Mandela, Martin Luther King Jr, Winston Churchill and John F Kennedy. What do these speakers all have in common? They are all extremely enthusiastic and passionate in their speeches. There is no point in having a dull speech or even a simple conversation if you do not like what you are saying. It will eventually bore you to the point that it no longer interests your audience.
Giving a speech is the transference of energy. If you will not remember anything else from this book, remember this sentence. Giving a speech is the transference of energy. This covers a lot of things. Confidence, enthusiasm, passion, clarity, preparation and so on. People do hear what you are saying. However, what concerns them even more is the energy that they are receiving. A great speaker is not one who has the best speaking capabilities. He is one who truly loves and believes in what he says. He lives what he says. And because of this, the energy, the aura that this person is giving off is truly powerful and it even has the power of impacting lives of millions.
One great example is the speech given by Steve Jobs. I am a fan of Steve Jobs myself and I find that his speeches are extremely relevant to our contemporary world. During Steve Jobs’ speech at the Stanford University, he motivated thousands of people and more to come. Steve Jobs: “It wasn’t all romantic. I didn’t have a dorm room, so I slept on the floor in friends’ rooms, I returned Coke bottles for the 5¢ deposits to buy food with, and I would walk the 7 miles across town every Sunday night to get one good meal a week at the Hare Krishna temple. I loved it.” Isn’t it impactful? Most would call him insane and crazy. However, it is these kinds of experiences that influence people. People only remember that: “Wow, that speech was so powerful” or “It really was motivating, but that guy is insane”.