The Art of Speech
It is my belief that public speaking is the greatest force in human history. It also turns out though, that the greatest force in human history is also the number one fear in the world. At a funeral, most people would rather be in the casket than deliver the eulogy. But I hope this blog post changes your perception, and shows you how to use that force to your advantage.
I remember taking speech in high school, and I would feel sick the entire day leading up to a speech. I even used to have to write down my speech on notecards and read directly from them, because I was too nervous to remember anything. Can any of you relate to that feeling? I’m sure most of you can. But I’m here to tell you nerves are normal. I’ve been speaking for 5 years, I’m even doing it for a living now, and I get nervous every single time I step in front of an audience. It never fails. So what can you do to control the nerves?
The first way is a piece of advice most people don’t want to hear: repetition. Constantly rehearsing your speech and preparing properly will undoubtedly give you more confidence going into a speech. Even if you do get nervous, you can always fall back on your preparation. The next two, are extremely simple. You have to know what you’re talking about. I would be extremely nervous talking to a crowd about quantum physics because my knowledge on that topic is nonexistent. But it’s extremely easy for me to talk about my book and my college experience because it’s a part of who I am. It’s easy for me to internalize that content and communicate it to an audience. Find what topics are a part of who you are. Next, be you. If you can be funny and make people laugh, be funny. If you can be inspiring, be inspiring. If you’re good at telling stories, tell a story. But the worst thing you can do is try to be something you’re not. Be you.
I can tell you the one thing 99% of speakers are not…memorable. How do you become memorable? What you have to remember is humans are emotional beings; we’re driven by our emotions. Because of that, I base all of the speeches I ever give on one quote:
“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” – Maya Angelou
You have to create a connection between you and the audience. The best way to establish that connection, is to get personal. Audiences always have their guard up with speakers. They’re skeptical and easily bored. What they need to see is that you’re human. Allow yourself to be vulnerable, make eye contact, and smile. The other way to spark emotion, is to be emotional yourself. Great speakers reach the head and the heart of their audience.
TED Talks are now the world’s greatest stage for public speaking, so I think they’re a great place to watch speeches and see what those speakers do well. These points stood out most to me:
- Ideas: The only thing that truly matters in public speaking is not confidence, stage presence, or smooth talking. What matters most is having something worth saying. Make sure you have a unique idea that you’re passionate about sharing.
- Throughline: Throughline means having one main theme that ties together each element of the presentation. Most talks have width – meaning multiple topics with very little meaning. You want to aim for depth – one main idea and go deep into it.
- Make Your Speech as Short as Possible: TED Talks are limited to 18 minutes. They do this because they realize people lose focus easily. People have short attention spans. Simultaneously use as few words as possible, and deliver as much value as possible with the limited words you decide to use.