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Your Speech Needs a Point

Your Speech Needs a Point

When I work with a public speaking client, the first thing we talk about is their intended audience. We need to know who exactly they're talking to before we plan what to say.

The next thing we do is get to the point. This means we determine what their takeaway is. Yes, we know their topic, but a takeaway goes further. A takeaway answers this question:

Five years from now, what is the one thing you want this audience to remember from your speech?

The answer to that question is the point of the speech. It's the takeaway. It's the one thing we build their presentation around.

Most speeches are 40-60 minutes. As a speaker, you can only share a certain amount of information in that timeframe effectively. You cannot tell the audience every single thing you know about your topic. You wouldn't be able to cram your lifetime of knowledge into that 40-60 minutes, and the audience wouldn't want you to.

Instead, determine your takeaway based on your overall topic. Ask yourself what one thing from your speech you want your audience to remember five years from now, and that's your takeaway. That's the whole point of your speech.

Your overall topic may be "Instagram," but your takeaway may be "Instagram Stories are easily utilized to build the know-like-trust factor with your customers."

See the difference?

Once you know your takeaway, write it down as a statement. Print it at the top of your paper when you begin brainstorming ideas for the content of your speech. For each point you think should be included in the speech, ask yourself if it supports your overall takeaway. It it does, keep it. If it doesn't it, save it for a future speech or dump it altogether.

Less is more in public speaking. Keep your speech simple by making a point-- one point-- and delivering content that supports it.

 

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Your Speech Needs a Point | He says, She says | Carrie Sharpe
How to Give a Powerful Speech

How to Give a Powerful Speech

It's not hard to give a speech. People do it every day. But if your goal is to connect with your audience and deliver a memorable presentation, you'll need to put in some preparation and practice. Powerful speeches rarely "just happen," so follow these tips to ensure your speech makes an impact.

1. Know your audience.

Knowing who you're talking to is key. Know their basic demographics, but also know their skill level regarding your topic, their interest level in your topic (Do they want to be here, or do they have to?), and what they need to hear from you to move forward. Give them what they need.

2. Write down your overall takeaway, and stick to it.

Ask yourself: If this audience could only remember one thing from my speech, what would I want it to be? Write your answer down as one complete sentence. That's your takeaway. Write it at the top of your paper as you begin developing your speech. As you add things to your speech ask yourself if each thing supports that takeaway. If it does, keep it in your speech. If it doesn't, save it for a different speech.

3. Prepare notes (not a script).

Memorizing a speech is not necessary and may even sound robotic. It's better to sound conversational yet prepared. Create an outline with bulletpoints. As you talk through it, you'll be able to condense your notes further and further. Ultimately you want to become familiar enough with your material that your notes are minimal. Just a skeletal structure is all you need. The only parts of your speech that should be written out verbatim in your notes are quotes, statistics, and anything else that must be shared exactly as written.

4. Share stories that illustrate your points.

Stories are memorable and relatable, so you'll want to include them in your speech. Make sure you choose stories that are relevant to your topic and audience, and then practice telling them until you sound natural. Don't underestimate the power of stories... they are often remembered long after the speech when statistics are forgotten.

5. Have a conversation with your audience.

Move around the stage naturally. Use expressive (yet appropriate) body language. You want to engage the audience and make them feel like they're part of the conversation rather than passive observers, so talk with them rather than at them. While we're on this subject let me just add that it's virtually impossible to have a conversation with your audience if you're reading slides to them. Don't let slides take over your speech and wreck it. For more information about slides, click here.

6. Practice. Practice again. Practice more. Repeat.

Creating your notes is not full preparation for giving a powerful speech. You must practice. That means you must say your speech out loud so many times that it feels like second nature. When you get on stage for the big day, you should feel like giving your speech is "old hat." When you've practiced enough, your speech will feel like a familiar friend. Your audience deserves your best, and that means you must practice, practice again, practice again, and practice again. Get feedback, tweak things, and practice more. 

And then please practice again.

And again.

Once more after that wouldn't hurt, either.

To deliver a powerful speech you must know your audience, prepare properly, and practice until your speech feels so familiar that you could deliver it in your sleep. Your audience will appreciate your effort, and you'll make an impact for years to come.

Need to improve your speech or stage presence? Click here to schedule a call with Carrie to learn more about how she can help you achieve your goals!

 How to Give a Powerful Speech | Carrie Sharpe | He says, She says

3 Ways You're Screwing Up as a Public Speaker

3 Ways You're Screwing Up as a Public Speaker

Almost everyone has to do some form of public speaking at some point. Whether you have to give a presentation to a few coworkers or you're delivering a keynote to a stadium full of people, you need to accomplish your goals of connecting with your audience, teaching something, and inspiring action.

It's easy to screw that up.

If you aren't hitting a home-run with your speeches, it's time to reflect, get feedback, and make the necessary changes. 

Here are 3 ways you may be screwing up as a speaker:

1. You aren't preparing... properly.

Preparation means more than jotting down a few bullet points and going over your notes the night before a speech. To be truly prepared, you need to do the work. That means you need to research your topic, learn what the audience needs from you, figure out which stories and illustrations will enhance your talk, determine how best to start the talk, and decide how best to end it. Then you have to draft the talk, refine it, practice it, record yourself giving it, watch your practice video, make changes, practice again, and repeat. Lack of proper preparation is the biggest mistake I see speakers make. (Need help preparing? Click here.)

2. You don't know your audience.

It's imperative that you know who you're talking to so you can tell them what they need to hear in the way they need to hear it. Do they expect a casual talk or a formal presentation? Do they already know the basics about your topic, or do they need to know all the foundational information? Are they familiar with industry jargon? Think through exactly who your audience is. Think through age, gender, education level, industry, marital status, and any other relevant demographics. If you aren't sure, ask the event planner. (For more about knowing your audience, click here.)

3. You're a diva.

Are you speaking for you or for your audience? Are you making demands? What are your motives for speaking? All too often, I see otherwise talented speakers lose audiences through vanity and narcism. Speaking is serving. Check your pride at the door. Divas don't connect with audiences... they repel them. Audience members can see a diva coming a mile away. (For more on serving your audience, click here.)

It's easy to screw up as a public speaker, but it's also pretty easy to fix your issues. Take the time to really analyze your most recent presentations. Be honest with yourself about each of the three issues I described above, and change accordingly. If you aren't sure how, click here and let's talk about how we can work on it together.

3 Ways You're Screwing Up as a Public Speaker | Carrie Sharpe

Looking for a supportive community where you can learn more about public speaking and other communication topics? You're invited to join us over in our Speaking Society. Click here to join.

Establishing Speaker Credibility through Testimonials

Establishing Speaker Credibility through Testimonials

If you want to be seen as an expert in the field you're speaking about, you need credibility.

That doesn't mean you need to have 500 speaking gigs under your belt. It means that you are seen as credible as an expert in your field. Even a brand new speaker can establish credibility as an expert.

One way to build credibility is through testimonials. You can post them on your website and one-sheet, and you can provide them to event planners. The best testimonials are a few short sentences describing the transformation you inspired in an audience, your integrity as a person and professional, and/or your knowledge of your subject matter.

Testimonials fall into three categories (but you don't necessarily need all three types to establish credibility):

1. Those given by people who have heard you speak (and can attest to your life-changing message)

2. Those given by people who have hired you to speak (and can shout from the rooftops how easy you are to work with and how you delivered more than they ever dreamed), and

3. Those given by people who have worked with you in some capacity and know first-hand how brilliant you are (if you're a brain surgeon, a testimonial from another surgeon who knows how skilled you are may be more important than a testimonial from someone who has heard you speak before).

Do you have testimonials that help establish your credibility? If so, post one on your social media channels today and tag us so we see it (we are "He says, She says" on all social media channels). If you don't have one, today's the day to get one (or more). Reach out to someone and ask for one. If you need help, send us an email at info@ryancarriesharpe.com and we'll help you brainstorm.

Establishing Speaker Credibility Through Testimonials

Looking for a supportive community where you can learn more about public speaking and other communication topics? You're invited to join us over in our Speaking Society. Click here to join.

What I Learned From Doing a Ted Talk

What I Learned From Doing a Ted Talk

By Suzanne Brown

 

And the Planning Begins

I hung up the phone, feeling both ecstatic and terrified. I had just finished a call with the director of TEDxSMU. I was confirmed to give a talk about a holistic look at why It’s Time to Create Professional Part-time Opportunities for Working Mom at the TEDxSMU Women’s Conference (2016). It was the end of June and the event was at the end of October. I had 4 months to figure out my talk while finishing up the interviews for my book (and still do client work, be the default parent, take care of the household duties, try to maintain a relationship with my husband, all in less than 20 hours per week for the summer months).

The next few months flew by. I hired a friend to coach me, helping me find the right words and the right presence on the stage. And I practiced a lot. A few weeks out from the conference, I worked for a few hours each day on something related to the talk.

TED Talks Are Different

I’m not new to public speaking. I’ve been doing some form of speaking in front of an audience since early on in my 18+ year career. I’ve spoken in front of small groups (10 or less) and large audiences, whether a presentation, seminar, panel, or speech. I’ve spoken on panels and done speeches in front of hundreds, but there were others with me or there was a podium. It can be comfortable to have that podium to hide safely behind. Presentations are easy because you have slides. And I can speak to slides all day long, even with limited words or visuals on a screen, because I usually know my content well.

A TED talk is different. You’re sharing stories, ideas, advice, or something that is new or unique. You’re talking about a new topic or a unique perspective on an often talked about topic. You’re passionate or an expert in this topic. And it’s you and your audience. You have a mic and you’re on the stage. No podium. No notes. Limited slides with limited information. That’s it.

If you’re interested in doing a TED talk, I have some advice for you to consider, based on my own experience:

1. Preparation is integral for a TED talk.

  • Understand your motivation for doing the talk. How does it fit into your overall brand and marketing plan? For me the idea behind the talk was to introduce the topic that I was writing about. Essentially, the TED talk set up why my book topic is important. I looked at the two together, not as separate elements of my branding and marketing strategy.
  • Practice a lot. Include hand gestures and how you’d like to move around as you’re practicing. You want these things to become second nature.
  • Don’t have a memorized talk. I wrote out my talk so that I knew what I wanted to say. I never said it exactly the same way two times in the row, but it helped to have it written out so that I knew the talk well. The day of the event I was told I had to cut 4 minutes from my talk. I had practiced it over and over and it was just shy of 17 minutes. All of a sudden on the day of, it couldn’t be over 13. I had to know what I could cut while doing my talk because I was the first speaker of the day. That required me knowing what I wanted to say incredibly well. I quickly had to decide what was most important and what I thought would most resonate with the audience.

 2. There are things to consider the day of that can help with your talk:

  • Get to your happy place. You want to be in the right mindset for your talk. Figure out what that is and what will get you there. For the day of, I wanted to be calm and focused. I stay calm by doing deep breathing. I also made sure to get in an early morning workout to help with the butterflies. I had all kinds of things go wrong that morning before getting to the conference, but none of it mattered on that stage. Make sure you know how to go to your happy place before you walk on the stage too. I took a few deep breaths and I was ready to go. 
  • Water beforehand might help. If you get dry mouth when you talk for long periods of time, that dry mouth sound can clearly be heard through the mic because it’s really close to your mouth. You can’t take water with you, so drink water for 15 minutes before you go on stage. Make sure you have an empty bladder, though, before you do this.
  • Speak louder to combat nervousness. If you continue to feel nervous while doing your talk, speak louder, even though you’re mic’ed. You are probably speaking too softly from being nervous and focusing on your volume will remove the focus from being nervous. Plus, there is usually a team managing the mic and video that can adjust the volume if you’re talking too loud.
  • Breathe. You are on stage for 4 to 18 minutes (usual length for most TED talks). You must breathe during your talk or you’ll run out of air and sound breathless. That breathless sound might not make you seem the most confident in your talk.
  • Slow down. Chances are, you’re probably going to feel nervous. Most people speed up when they’re nervous on stage. Slow down and keep an even pace, unless it makes sense in your talk to speed up at times.
  • Get a picture on the stage with your camera. Ask someone to take a picture with your camera (likely your phone). You want someone toward the front of the audience. You can easily get another speaker to do it if you don’t know anyone in the audience. Get them to take more than one picture, so that the only one isn’t with your mouth opened or your eyes closed. And have the camera zoomed in at least a bit if the person is close to the stage or zoomed in all the way if they’re far back.
  • Connect with people at the event. Be open to conversation because strangers will share their stories with you, if you make yourself available. You’ll hear how people connected with what you said. You might even get ideas on things to change or add the next time you cover the same or a similar topic.
  • Connect with other speakers. Set up time, while at the event, to chat with other speakers or attendees from the event. Have your phone with you, so that you can easily access your calendar. I wish I had done more of this.

 3. After the talk is important, too.

  • Share soon after the event. Tell people on social media that you did the talk and show your enthusiasm before the video is up. Talk about the event itself.
  • Follow up. If you connected with people at the event, especially if you seemed to make a true connection, follow up with them. Mention something you connected over. Try to reach out to them over time to keep that connection going.
  • Promote your video. When the video is posted, promote it everywhere. And do that right after it’s posted. Share on social media, on your blog, in conversations, when you’re on podcasts, and on your resume or LinkedIn profile. How you talk about it will change, based on the marketing vehicle. Let it become part of your story. Share, share, share!

So, what will your TED talk be about? Not ready to do a talk? What’s holding you back?

 

Suzanne BrownSuzanne Brown is a strategic marketing and business consultant, advocate for professional part-time working moms, TEDx speaker, thought provoker, and international travel enthusiast. Most importantly, she is wife to a supportive husband and mother to two active young boys. Suzanne’s current passion project is empowering moms to think differently about their career approach and providing a how-to in her book, which will launch in September. She interviewed more than 110 professional part-time working moms and sprinkles their stories, insights, and advice throughout her book. Follow her reflections on all things related to being a professional part-time working mom and get updates on her book launch at www.mompowerment.com.

Know Your Audience

Know Your Audience

The most important rule in public speaking is to know your audience. You will not be your most effective unless you do.

Several years ago, we were speakers at a business seminar in New Jersey. We were scheduled to fly out of Flint, Michigan, on Friday, with the seminar Saturday evening. Unfortunately, a major blizzard hit. Our flight left Flint without issue, but when we landed in Detroit for our connection to New Jersey, we were informed our flight was canceled. The next available flight wouldn't be until late Saturday morning.

So much for getting into town early.

We stayed overnight in Detroit and drove through the blizzard the next morning back to the airport. After over an hour of de-icing, our flight was the only one that took off before they canceled all other flights. We arrived in New Jersey only a couple hours before we were scheduled to speak.

Our luggage did not arrive with us. In fact, we did not see our luggage until two weeks later when it was delivered to our home in Michigan. Incidentally, the second most important rule in public speaking is to always put the clothes you plan to wear during your talk into your carry-on.

We knew we had some serious juggling to do. We like to arrive early. We like to meet with people we'll be speaking to. We like to learn about the town, the heritage, and the company we're working with. We had done a lot of leg work from home prior to this day, but there is nothing like chatting with the actual people involved. We like to know what makes them tick and what is on their hearts. So when our hosts picked us up from the airport, we used the 25 minute commute to fill in the gaps.

The couple who picked us up became fast friends. We asked them countless questions. They filled us in on everything, including the local culture. We were speaking very close to New York City and were informed that there were many different cultures represented at this particular meeting. For example, there were many religious leaders present whose traditions and cultures differ from mine. This was important to know because I am a very "huggy" or "touchy-feely" person by nature, which would not have gone over well at all with this crowd who did not believe in touching anyone of the opposite gender who is not your spouse. Our hosts saved me from a major faux pas, and having this knowledge helped me to respect their different beliefs.

They also clued us in on the particular challenges their team members were facing. They shared their group's strengths and weaknesses. They told us about a few of the group's leaders, who we made sure to name during our talks. Knowing this background information made our talks so much more effective because we were able to give this group exactly what it needed at that time. We tailored our own skills and experiences specifically for them.

Knowing your audience is crucial. Chatting with folks ahead of time and asking lots of questions is absolutely essential to your success as a speaker. If you speak to their needs, your talk will help them move forward. Bringing about positive change is the ultimate goal. It won't happen if you don't know what the group needs to change.

There is another benefit to knowing your audience: you will make life-long tremendous friendships along the way. Some of the couples who have hosted us at speaking events have become some of our closest friends. That New Jersey couple who hosted us regularly keeps in touch. They will be cherished friends for life.

Take the time to know your audience. The old saying is true: "People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." Care enough to know them. Know them well enough to speak directly to them and their needs. It matters.

 

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Know Your Audience, public speaking