You may have been there before; halfway through your talk or lecture and you realize… I’VE LOST THEM! Glazed eyes. Glancing at watches. Big yawns. Oh crap. While there are ways to get your audience back if you’ve lost them, it’s a difficult thing to pull off. It’s best to create a vivid topic while crafting your speech to avoid boredom. Here are three mistakes to avoid while creating a topic for a TED speech (or a TED-style speech):
- Don’t use your TED Talk as a way to plug your business – I’m shocked at how many people think that their TED speech is really just an opportunity to sell themselves. Great TED talkers find a unique, original, spin on a topic, and delve into with great detail. Often they are professors, educators, or tech wizards. You will not be able to hold your audience if you are merely trying to plug your company. Think about what you know well, what is arcane in that subject matter, and get curious!
- Keep things personal – The quickest, easiest way to win an audience is to add your story, your life, to your topic. Don’t get me wrong, your topic needs to be thoroughly researched, have an intellectual spin, and be highly unique (see #1), but you can use your life as a way of shaping the material. Jill Bolte Taylor’s speech “My Stroke of Insight” is a great example of this. She uses her story of a health crisis to illuminate fascinating details about the working of the brain.
- Test it out – Challenge yourself to write your topic down. Use active verbs and focus on what you would like your audience to DO after hearing the speech. Call them to action. Then test it out. Run your topic by co-workers, peers, and friends. Run it by strangers at Starbucks. Run it by your in-laws (ok maybe just SOME of your in-laws). Run it by everyone you meet. Get FEEDBACK. See if there is interest in what you have to say BEFORE you say it. The applause will make it worth the while.
It’s almost 2016! How are your presentations going? If they are feeling flat, try these simple, unconventional tips to give your speeches more oomph:
- 1. Power-pose – Power-posing is proven to make you feel more confident, and to improve your audience’s impression of you as a speaker. Before you present, find a private space such as an empty conference room or office. Lengthen your spine, put your hands on your hips and breathe deep for two to three minutes. This can affect the cortisol and testosterone levels in your brain and make you feel more confident.
- Do The Opposite of What You’re Doing– If you tend to stay still during a speech, experiment with gesture. Time you gestures with your key points. Let them accentuate your main points. Stay away from small, micro gestures. Move in a bold way. Conversely, if you move a lot during a speech, experiment with stillness. Let your words and ideas charge your audience. If you speak quickly, slow down, keep in mind silence is more eloquent than words. If you speak slowly, try picking up the pace. In other words, break up your non-verbal communication habits.
- Don’t be Donald Trump – And by this, I mean prepare for you speeches (one hour for every minute you speak), don’t make up bogus facts, don’t rage at your opponent, smile, get a normal haircut, and respect your audience.
- Throw Out The Rule Book – There is no one way to present, and no rule book for speaking well. Take one public speaking truism, and mess with it. You have to have an attention getter? Nah try jumping right into your discussion section. Keep the humor sanitized? Try out an edgy joke. See if it works. The only thing that must exist in your speech is your passionate connection to your material. Everything else can be experimented with.
If you’re an avid public speaker, you’ve probably gotten many tips. Here are five tips I think you can avoid:
- “Just Try To Relax” – A recent Harvard study proved that “trying to relax” before you speak doesn’t work so well. It’s a better idea to try to re-frame your pre-speech anxiety as excitement. Try telling yourself “I’m excited to give this presentation” just before you speak.
- “You Have To Have PowerPoint to Present Well” – Nope. The most important part of any presentation is a strong, unconventional premise, and a good story. PowerPoint visuals are a nice aid, but there are many presenters who forgo PowerPoint and still give a great presentation.
- “You Have Too Much Data” – Data is not your enemy. Well-placed statistics can build your argument. The danger is misplaced data. Make sure each statistic builds your argument logically, and don’t add data you don’t need.
- “Speak Quickly To Meet Your Time Limit” – I see this one get many speakers into trouble. You never want to rush when you present. If you feel that your presentation is too long, cut it down, but don’t speed up.
- “It’s Important To Gesture” – It is good to gesture, but the most powerful speaking tool is your voice. Stillness helps the audience pay attention to your words, and your ideas. Too much movement can distract from your speech.