Note: I'm excited to announce today that I've created a new weekly email for those who are professional or aspiring speakers. Each week, I'll send you fresh tips, ideas, and resources to help you elevate your speaking game. This content won't be anywhere else online, so sign up for Speak UP today! I think that one of the fine lines between a good speaker and a great speaker is commitment. Great speakers commit to their topic, their delivery, and their audience. Here's what I mean:
Commit to your topic
As I'll be sharing at the International Toastmasters Convention in a few weeks, the best (paid) speakers have a core story, often shaped by who they are. This story then lets them find a niche to market to in order to land paid speaking gigs. While stories and topics can change over time, you can tell when a speaker is committed to a topic. She can recite facts and examples with ease, as if lost in a deep personal conversation. She has a treasure trove of resources and anecdotes at her fingertips because she knows her topic so well. She's up on the latest findings and even has her own opinion of them. She's read all the books on the subject and may be working on one of her own. It's part of her. You know when you've seen this kind of knowledge in a speaker and no doubt it's someone who is truly great.
Commit to your delivery
Michael Grinder, who taught me a lot about public speaking, did a bit in one of his sessions. He was extolling us to watch great politicians or televangelists speak (or preach) in order to observe their delivery skills. He then immediately launched into his most saccharine and charismatic impression of a TV preacher. In no time, the audience was laughing, clapping, and nodding along and his suggestion was burned into our memories. He could have said one line in that voice or with those gestures, but he carried on for a solid minute. It was a risk (we might not have been humored), but he committed to the bit and it paid off in teaching a solid lesson.
When you tell a story on stage, commit to it. Retell it as if you were there all over again. Share with the audience the smells, sounds, and sights going on around you. Use the appropriate facial expressions. Pause when things get hectic to add suspense. Yell when intensity calls for it. Commit to telling a good story and you'll stand out and teach your audience a thing or two.
Commit to your audience
Every time I speak, I make sure to have a detailed conversation with my contact person about the audience. Whether it's a college orientation or a nonprofit conference, I treat each gig as unique. I want to know who specifically (if the contact knows) will be in the room. What has gone on in their collective lives or industry the previous six months? Budget cuts? Transition? Confusion? Success? How old are they? Do they have to be at this event or are the freely choosing to attend? Knowing who's in the room makes my talk more relevant, with better key takeaways for those who listen. Speakers with a one-size-fits-all approach rarely move from good to great.
What do you think makes a great speaker?
What qualities do you admire in a speaker who is outstanding on stage? Let me know in the comments below.