Remember that iconic song by Carly Simon about a self-absorbed ex-lover? “You’re so vain, you probably think this song’s about you…” You’re singing the words in your head right now, I bet. Unfortunately, I’m sure we’ve all met someone like that before! Lover or not.
But what about the self-absorbed speaker? You’ve probably crossed paths with this person at some point at an event or – gasp! – maybe you unwittingly are that speaker. What do I mean by self-absorbed?
Any speaker worth his salt knows that the speech is not about them. It is always about the audience. And from the moment that speaker is hired for the event, he or she should be in the mindset of focusing on those who have come to watch his or her presentation. This means being attentive to some things that should be done before, during, and after the speech to ensure the best impact for the audience.
Here are a few tips to keep top of mind before you take the stage again:
Do your homework…on the audience. Before you can even begin crafting your speech, you need to know who you will be speaking to. After all, how will you know if what you’re speaking about is appropriate for this audience? You’ll want to ask questions such as:
Fortunately, many of these questions can be answered by your event host. In addition, you’ll need to find out the demographics of your audience. Will you be speaking to mostly men or women, or an even balance? Age range? Cultural background? Professions? Get as much information as you can ahead of time.
Remember all those great lectures from college? Yeah, me either. And if you give a speech that remotely resembles a non-interactive spiel such as this, you will quickly lose your audience. They don’t want to just be passive listeners – they want to be active participants. You can engage them in a number of ways: Ask a question…do a quick activity…have them repeat a memorable, important line from your speech. Use whatever method you like, but just make sure your speech is a two-way street instead of a one-way where you’re doing all the talking and the audience is not involved.
Truthfully, building rapport with your audience starts before you even hit the stage, but for now we’ll focus on when your speech is in progress. First, your body speaks volumes: a warm smile, open gestures, and good eye contact around the room all help your audience to form a positive connection with you. Your words also play a part. Avoiding jargon (unless the audience is familiar with them) and using inclusive words like “we” and “you” also help build rapport. Create an atmosphere where your audience members will feel like they are listening to an old friend.
It’s great to receive applause from your audience at the end of your speech, but what will you give them?
Always leave the audience a charge to do something within a few days after your speech. The sooner they do it, the better!
When you give your next speech, I hope these tips help you keep the bottom line in mind – the speech is ALWAYS about the audience. What else would you add?
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As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.
- 1 Peter 4:10-11
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