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Get the Heart of Your Audience

Friday, February 18, 2011

Dale Carnegie once said, “There are always three speeches for everyone you actually gave - the one you practised, the one you gave and the one you wished you gave.”

The ability to prepare and deliver a powerful winning speech can be your trump card in any profession or forum. Many aspire to be successful public speakers but few make it.

To begin with, let us see what successful public speakers do once they accept an invitation to speak.

Establishing speaking goals
The first and most important step in preparing for public speaking is to clearly identify the speaking goals.
>Whom are you speaking to — what is the audience profile?
>What do you wish to communicate? What should the listeners take home from your speech?
>Why will people come to listen, implying the value or worth of your speech?
>Why have you been chosen to speak? This will tell you how you are different from other speakers who have been invited.
>Which are the areas or topics where highest impact is desired?

Answers to these questions should give you a clear idea of what needs to be achieved at the end of the speech. Take special efforts to speak to organisers about these facts and you will have all the information you need to start preparing.

Important fact-finding steps
>Ask organisers for important details regarding date, time, venue, agenda for the programme, names of other speakers who will address before and after you.
>You must also ask for language preference for the speech. If you want to win the audience, speak to them in the language they are most comfortable with. Public speaking is not about proving your oratory skills. Its true success lies in conquering the heart and mind of listeners and enrolling them to your school of thought effectively. So run that extra mile to talk to people in their preferred language.
>A very important piece of information is the time limit, how much time have you been given? Listeners are restless when speakers exceed time. We ourselves do not like speakers who go on and on without showing sensitivity for others’ time. Some speakers overstep time to the extent that other speakers, who are scheduled after them, have to cut down their speeches! It is said: make sure you have finished speaking before your audience has finished listening. However well prepared you may be, it is important to resist the temptation of exceeding your time.
>Which public address system is available? Are you going to be behind a podium? Or can you use a collar mike or cordless mike and move freely? How big is the auditorium and how are the sound speakers placed? This will help you to plan your delivery technique and body language. Some people feel very comfortable to speak from behind a podium whereas some feel they can connect better when they move freely with a collar mike or cordless mike. Ask for the arrangement of your choice to avoid last minute surprises.
>Use of communication aids needs to be confirmed. You may want to use a projection or slide show to support your speech and it is advisable to inform organisers about it well in advance. Also, the arrangement for proper audiovisual relay of the projection to every corner of the auditorium needs to be confirmed. This will ensure that every section of the audience can see and hear you and the presentation clearly.

Supporting facts for your speech
It pays to enhance your basic script with the latest fact and figures, stories, humour, audiovisual clips and even with elements of surprise. Do not deliver the same speech again and again in the same format. Every audience is different and needs different incentives to keep their interest alive. Captivate people with value added information and present it vividly.

You can also use newspaper clippings or research documents to endorse your views and establish credibility. Listeners like interesting bits of information and you may even find them jotting down when you speak. I have come across occasions when many speakers use similar material and data for a given topic and the audience goes through repetitive speeches helplessly. Be unique, think differently. Work hard to gather information that will keep the audience hooked.

Next week we will share more about effective public speaking. Until then remember, “There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject, then to get your subject into yourself, and lastly, to get your subject into the heart of your audience.”

(The author is a corporate soft skills trainer and a motivational speaker)


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