As I sat listening to some speeches recently, I realised that most speakers fail to impact an impact when they speak. Their speeches might be fairly interesting and their central idea may even be unusual enough to garner interest. However, the impact on the audience, either entertainment, persuasion of information ends-up being quite limited. So, limited that the speeches are quickly forgotten and end up lost somewhere in the ether. Here are some of the mistakes contributing to this result.
Making an impact is about your audience
Very often I listen to speeches that make sense to the speaker but don’t make sense to me at all. The delivery may even make it clear that the topic of the speech is of great interest to the speaker. However, the speech just doesn’t seem to ‘click’ with the audience and almost no connection is built. Forgetting one’s audience needs is a very common mistake that speakers make. What’s more, it is a super easy one to make too. I too made this mistake many times in the past.
A few years ago, I wrote a speech that made me laugh when I started listening to it to memorise it beforehand. This speech would be the moment when I would finally make it as a humorous speaker. It ended up being nothing of the sort, nobody laughed at my jokes and my punchlines fell flat. What went wrong there is rather simple, the subject of the jokes wasn’t directly relatable to most audience members. The experience I was sharing was about me and I failed to include the audience in my content. The ‘What’s in it for me’ simply wasn’t clear enough and I didn’t make an impact as a result.
What are you seeking to achieve?
I’ve already covered this topic in a previous article. I am coming back to it though as this is something that speakers keep getting wrong. I have been there in the past and bombed in a big way in a public speaking competition two years ago. I spent a day preparing amazing PowerPoint slides to support what I wanted to say. My message was big and bold, aka burning the seas with nuclear energy. On the day my delivery was flawless and almost theatrical. This time I had this competition in the bag! I didn’t win it and when walking back over London Bridge it became clear as to why. It wasn’t clear what I was trying to achieve with my presentation.
I looked back at the slides when writing this article and as they say, hindsight is 10/10. The presentation contained elements of inspiration but wasn’t inspirational. There wasn’t enough emotion and appeal to the audience for that. The speech was delivered in a strong persuasive style but my final slide wasn’t a call to action. Equally, my presentation could have been informative as it contained a lot of facts laid out logically. The inescapable conclusion is that what I was trying to achieve wasn’t clear. If you want to make an impact, don’t make my mistake. Instead, be clear on what you want to achieve when you speak!
You need gravitas to make an impact
Gravitas means being in control of the situation when you speak and projecting sincerity and conviction. Confidence is only one part of gravitas. The way you deliver your speech or presentation is even more important. An easy mistake to avoid is reading from notes or a script. Ideally, you should always avoid using notes and deliver either from memory or extempore. There is a lot that can go wrong with notes, from fiddling with them, to forgetting in which order they should be. If you do want to use them, make sure that they’re numbered, clearly laid out and are written on index cards that you can hold in one hand.
Voice and vocal delivery can make the difference between a good and a great speech. Mastering vocal variety is an advanced technique. But a relatively easy thing to do is to slow down when you speak. Aim to say between 100 to 120 words a minute. This may seem like a slow pace of speaking to you. However, remember that your speech isn’t about you, but about your audience.
Keen to speak with impact?
Come to my interactive 1-day workshop during which you will learn a framework to prepare impactful speeches and presentations. What’s more, you will also get the opportunity to practice everything you’ll learn and receive some feedback too.
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