Have you had to deliver this yet? That once-in-a-lifetime speech.
You know the kind of speech I’m referring to: the pivotal presentation that defines a person, cause or culture — that crucial communications moment your audience members will remember for weeks afterward.
This could be a TEDx talk, like one I recently did for TEDx CWRU, or your first all-hands meeting as CEO, or your plea to the United Nations for funding, or your crucial VC meeting where the entire future of your dream and company are riding on a YES.
The best speeches are those where the stakes are high to inspire and convince (TWEET THIS!)
Here are 3 tips on how to deliver a great speech (Adapted from an original article I wrote for Entrepreneur)
1. Make your first words count.
“First words matter. Make them better,” communications catalyst Dia Bondi reminds us. Bondi helps women ask for more in their careers and lives and has helped executives, humanitarians and government officials prepare compelling speeches. She knows the deal.
Dia understands how to bring crucial communications moments into stark relief: “Your time on stage will be defined by the first words you utter into the mic,” she says. “Starting strong tells us what the rest of your time will be like, who you are and what you’ll be expecting of us as you move through your content.”
Dia advises: “You’ll know how best to start if you write your first words last. Get your story out on paper, speak it through once or twice and then ask yourself, What is the most compelling verbal entry point for your time on stage? A metaphor? A personal story? An image on the screen that provokes?”
2. Use emotion and logic to motivate.
We are humans. And even the most tech-driven B2B companies re now learnding that you hav to appeal to emotion as much, if not more than, you appeal to logic if you want to persuade people.
When you’re delivering a high-stakes speech, your No. 1 goal is always to get someone, somewhere to act differently. Never lose sight of this goal.
Ghostwriter and editor (and my fabulous writing partner!) Sally McGraw warns you to not mistake persuasion purely as presenting data and facts.
McGraw has helped authors around the world craft compelling proposals and pitch letters to successfully secure deals. “In my experience,” she says, “persuasion is more about the heart than the mind. If you want to sway someone to your side, you need to convince them emotionally as well as logically.”
Authors of Switch: How to Change Things When Change is Hard, Chip and Dan Heath heavily researched the best ways to convince people to make a change. They use the metaphor of the Elephant and the Rider. Every human in your audience has an emotional Elephant side and a rational Rider side. To move them to act differently, you’ve got to address both sides.
3. Succeed at being you.
When I was prepping my TEDx talk, I asked successful speaker, activist and entrepreneur Taylor Conroy, “How can I avoid delivering a cliche ‘TEDX TALK’, to avoid being a parody of them all??” He smiled and replied, “Be yourself. That’s how you avoid being a ‘typical’ TEDx cliche. No one else presents like you.” Wise words! Get your head in the game, prepare, leave yourself time, practie presence and then just go in there and BE YOU.
Structure your talk like a story and remember that the audience is there specifically to be inspired, to be persuaded. They want you to succeed just as much as you do. They don’t want to waste their time listening to a failed speech, either. You are both after the same goal.
Giving the speech of a lifetime is an amazing opportunity. While it might feel like intense pressure, know that if you are well prepared, the odds are good you’ll hit it out of the park. Take these tips with you. The next time you step up to speak, you’ll deliver a speech that gets things moving.