Chiara Alzati: CEO and founder, Chiara Alzati Srl; corporate effective communication and public speaking trainer, speaker, and author.
Effective public speaking goes beyond the mere transmission of information; it’s about captivating your audience, leaving a lasting impression and mastering the nuances of the craft. Here are five tips to help you achieve that “wow effect” in your next public speech.
1. Master the art of the opening.
The first seven seconds of your speech are paramount, as they shape your audience’s initial perception of you. To make these seconds count, pay attention to your demeanor, facial expressions and how you engage your audience.
A key element in a compelling opening is the strategic use of silence. Pause for a few seconds, offer a warm smile and connect with your audience. This pause builds anticipation and focuses attention on your forthcoming words.
Steer clear of clichéd greetings and pleasantries in your opening lines. Instead, start with something that immediately captures your audience’s attention. For instance, if you’re addressing a corporate convention, you could acknowledge a challenge and invite the audience to participate, saying something like: “87,466 positive reviews in the last 12 months. We’ve truly exceeded expectations, both ours and our customers’. But we’re here today because limits exist only in our minds, and we can do even better. Today, let’s explore how. Are you curious? A warm welcome to all…”
2. Engage your audience continuously.
Public speaking is not a one-way street; it’s a dialogue. Find ways to involve your audience. You can pose direct questions, encourage participation or even anticipate their thoughts and respond to them. Engaging your audience keeps them attentive and invested in your message.
Effectively utilize your voice to emphasize key points. Slow down when delivering critical messages and convey them with a composed and assertive tone. This technique adds weight and significance to your words.
Here are some phrases you can incorporate into your speech to maintain an ongoing dialogue with your audience:
• “Have you ever found yourself…?”
• “What would you have done in my place?”
• “Yes, I understand what you’re thinking; let me explain why it’s not so…”
• “Perhaps you’re wondering now…”
• “And what if I told you that…? Would you believe it?”
• “Those of you who agree, raise your hands!”
3. Craft a memorable conclusion.
Your conclusion is the final opportunity to leave a lasting impression. Summarize your key points and reiterate your message. A well-structured conclusion should loop back to your opening, creating a circular narrative. The circle symbolizes perfection, and this technique reinforces your message in the minds of your audience.
Consider starting your speech with a story but leaving it unfinished until concluding it at the end. This way, you can create suspense in your audience.
4. Step onto the stage with the intention to share value.
When you speak in public, you have the responsibility to bring about transformation in people. You should help them see what they don’t see, broaden their perspectives and subsequently expand their possibilities. You can do this in several ways.
To be effective in your intent, first, ensure that you are understood. Avoid the trap of knowledge, using terminology that is familiar to you but entirely incomprehensible to your audience.
Share your personal experiences. Tell your story and inspire people through it. Remember, your story is what makes you unique. Also, share your vulnerabilities; they make you human and help strengthen your connection with your audience.
Connect with people from the heart and with the intention to share your message. Public speaking is never a performance; it’s not an exam. It’s an opportunity for sharing. Breathe, go with the flow and allow your words to touch the minds and hearts of your viewers.
5. Dare to be different.
While incorporating these strategies into your public speaking, don’t forget the fundamental principle shared by Jonathan Swift: “In oratory, the greatest art is to hide art.” That is, the art of oration is about concealing the art. This means mastering the craft to the point where it appears effortless and natural.
Stepping out of your comfort zone is essential for growth in public speaking. Be willing to experiment with new ways of communicating and engaging your audience. When you master the art of oratory, it seamlessly integrates into your speaking style, allowing you to captivate your audience without them even realizing the technique behind it.
In summary, the keys to creating a wow effect in your public speaking include a captivating opening, continuous audience engagement, effective use of your voice, a memorable conclusion and the intention to share value with your audience. Master these techniques and remember that the art of oratory is about hiding the art so you appear effortlessly skilled. With practice and a willingness to experiment, you can become a master of public speaking and leave a lasting impression on your audience.
If public speaking is still a burden for you, know that it can become a joy. Stop seeing it as a moment when you’re in the spotlight and under judgment. Cease to experience it as anguish. Quit wasting your energy on negative thoughts and fears. Invest that energy instead in crafting a wow presentation, nurturing the joy and gratitude of being able to share your message with others.
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