I was reminded the other day how important it is to read a room and adjust your speech to your audience. No one wants to hear you talk about yourself for an hour. People want to hear things that are directly connected to them. Before you speak to a diverse audience take a minute to understand their “WIIFM” what’s in it for me. Leaders of companies someone’s lives in a bubble of numbers, decisions and risk verses reward. That’s what their entire day looks like. From the moment they get into the office they have one of the above on their mind. As much as they would like to downplay it, when they are in a room of employees, they don’t people. They see wages, healthcare, 401k cost, FTE’s, tax filings, etc. Sometimes its hard to switch to seeing people as people.
Here are five rules to giving a better speech:
Good Leaders Don’t Talk About Themselves or Their Company
When you’re giving your speech think of how many times you are using the word “I”. If over 70% of your speech is using the word “I” or the phrase “for me” refocus and think about your audience.
Have Someone Else Write Your Speech
Often, we are in a rush and cobble some words together on a paper and call it a speech. A speech should have seven elements to it.
Who are you? Briefly let your audience know why they should be listening to you – “I’m the VP of operations at Spacely Space Sprockets. I handle your accounts”
Why are you talking to them? – “I wanted to talk with you today because….”
What are you going to talk about? “Over the next hour I will discuss some of the changes in operations…”
What’s in it for them? – “Without your assistance we would not have won….”
What in it for them, again? – “Going forward everyone at Spacely Space Sprockets will receive…”
Thank them for listening – “Again, I know you have many things you could be doing….”
Let them know you’ll follow-up – “I’ll have Jane from HR follow-up with you on….”
Practice Your Written Speech on Your Friends or Spouse
Notice I didn’t say your employees. Your employees no matter how long they have known you will only tell you what you want to hear. Even if they do tell you truth they will not tell you the whole truth. Your friends or spouse are not afraid of losing their jobs. You may not like what they have to say, but it will be said out of honesty.
Keep Your Audience Guessing
Steve Jobs wasn’t the best speaker in the world, but he kept you guessing in his announcements of new Apple products. He kept his audience on the edge of their seat. Not because of new Apple products coming out in the fall. Instead, he would keep his audience guessing because he knew spent the last year thinking about what his customers wanted. Not what he wanted. When you speak what your audience wants you will always have their attention and you will always keep them guessing.
Don’t Make Your Speech into a Ted Talk
I love Ted Talks. They are motivating, captivating and I always walk away learning something new. Unless your rolling out a new cure for cancer, leave the cleverness at home. Ted Talk presenters rehearse, have the support of a large production staff and have been waiting for the moment to be on that stage all their life. You are told you need to speak to your employees two days ago. Keep your speech uplifting and work in your sense of humor and personality as much as possible. More importantly, keep your speech short and to the point.
It’s okay to veer off course if you keep the above in mind. One wants to see you read a script for an hour. They came to see you speak not to see you read.
What has been your experience as an audience member or a speaker. Let me know in the comments section.