How to become better as a speaker

“Watch yourself speak.” That is one of the most common advice out there for becoming a better speaker if you ask experienced speakers.

And it is probably the advice that beginner speakers ignore the most. They know they should be watching themselves speak. But they don’t.

But you should.

And not only film yourself once and watch it once.

But film yourself often. And watch yourself often.

After 25 years of speaking and more than 2000 speeches delivered, I still do.

But here is the “expert tip”: Watch the SAME speech over and over again.

Because every time you do you will see different aspects. (Just like watching a movie over and over again. Every time you rewatch a movie you notice new things.)

And when you have watched the same speech 10, 15, 20 times then you start to notice small subtle things that you do that you would never notice would you always insist on only watching each speech once or twice.

I have just spent last week re-watching a video of myself speak 4 more times. A speech that I have most likely already seen 50 times – at least.

And yet, every time I watched it this week I found new things to improve – or new things that I notice that I do well.

Because watching yourself speak is not ONLY about identifying things you could do better – which can be difficult for your ego. (And which is the reason that so many beginner speakers “cheat” on watching themselves – they are afraid to hurt that ego…)

But watching yourself over and over is also about identifying what you are doing WELL – and if you look at it that way it becomes easier to “convince yourself” to sit down and watch a speech of yourself speaking over and over again.

So now go and find that speech of yours and watch it again. And again. And again.

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“Have fun!”

That was the words I found myself saying to two of the other speakers of the conference I spoke at earlier this week. (The conference was LEAP – a great HR conference in Bucharest, Romania with enthusiastic 700+ attendees (www.LEAP.ro).)

I could, of course, have chosen anything to say to them, but I picked “Have fun”, and in this episode of Professional Speaking I want to share why I think that is the best advice to tell a speaker before going up on stage.

So why is that?

Enjoyment is contagious. (Now, in these COVID-19 times the term “contagious” is perhaps not immediately connected to “joy”(The Coronavirus is serious stuff), but “contagious” is still the best word I can think of. A person having fun at their job (be that a bus driver, a waiter or a speaker) will affect the mood of the people around that person.

Having fun makes you less nervous. And being less nervous makes you relaxed. A relaxed speaker creates a relaxed audience.

Having fun makes you less stuck up on yourself. And that means you focus less on yourself and the single best advice for being a great speaker is to focus more on the message and the audience than on yourself.

Having fun makes you improvise more. When you are having fun it’s easier to laugh at your own mistake, easier to see new things you could do in the spur of the moment, and makes you more creative. All things that make a speech better.

Audiences find it easier to connect with a speaker whom they can see is having fun. And connecting with an audience is so important.

I could go on. A speaker having fun will communicate a message better. And it is true for virtually all topics. Even the most serious ones. (Do a test at the next conference you attend. Rate all the speakers you hear during one day on who you thought was the best speaker of the day. And also rank who how fun you think they had on stage. I am pretty sure that you will see a very clear correlation.)

So, did I tell myself to “have fun” too? I did. Did it work? I think so. (Not only for me but also for the two speakers I gave the advice to.)

I personally especially remember one woman of the many people who came up to me after my speech at LEAP who said: “I loved your speech.” and then added: “You have a very special, positive aura around you.”

Those two sentences combined into one feedback to me is what triggered this post. They show a very clear relationship between a speaker having fun on stage and the audience enjoying the speech. Now, this might sound like almost native advice, but I am surprised about how often speakers go up on stage and their “joyometer” is turned way down.

So the next time you go up to deliver the speech – for 700 or for 70 people – tell yourself to “have fun” right before you go up on stage. Then smile a huge smile and walk up that stage.

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This might be a strange post but it feels right to write it. I say strange because I am going to write about me inspiring others.

The last few days I have, for example:

a) gotten an email from a man from Mongolia (Ankhbayar Batbaatar) who wrote to me out of the blue – to tell me that he is “my big fan” since a friend gave him my book “The Idea Book”.

b) received a book by an American woman (Lousie Karch) with a copy of her book (Word Glue) and that she happily told me in a sweet note that she was inspired by my book.

c) gotten a photo sent to me from a man in India (Jugdish Ahuja) which shows me how he has a picture of me speaking on a big stage as his desktop picture on two screens (!) to inspire him to dream big about speaking.

Mongolia.

America

India.

As a Swede living in Singapore that is just so inspiring to me to hear I have been inspiring others.

It is my firm belief that people who do what they love and love what they do – inspire.

It is my firm belief that people on a mission to spread a message to as many people as they can – inspire.

It is my firm belief that people who are humble enough to focus on doing things that inspire them – will inspire others.

And that is why this post is a bit awkward to write, because I do not want it to look like I am bragging about being called inspiring. 😉

I am not. On the “people who inspire list” I am humbly aware that I am not even near to being at the top. (If ever there was such a list)

I am instead writing this post to hopefully inspire more people to live their lives in a way so that they will inspire more people.

The world needs more positive, inspiring examples right now.

As speakers, a big part of our job is to spread a message in a way that inspires.

So how can we do that?

My amateur observation of what inspires inspiration is:

a) Mastery. (Someone doing something really well – be that playing the piano or jumping into a pair of pants.)

b) Positivity. (Doing what you do in a positive way – be that cleaning the street or flying a plane.)

c) Humble ambition. (An urge to become better without the urge to feel that you are special.)

d) An element of surprise. (Something done well in an at least slightly unusual way – like a footballer doing an unexpected dribble.)

So if we as speakers and authors (as spreaders of messages) aim to spread our message:

a) As well as we possibly can

b) In a positive and/or funny way

c) while fully understanding that the message is not about us but about the audience

d) and do that in a way that at least slightly surprises the audience

Then we have a big chance of inspiring inspiration.

And the best part of doing that is that it is such an inspiring job to have. I am walking on feather light feet knowing that my book and speeches are inspiring people from Mongolia to America to India this week – so much that they take the time to sit and write me an email to tell me about it.

What are you going to do that will send waves of inspiration around the world?

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