How to become better as a speaker

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At 2 pm I was scheduled to stand on stage to give a keynote speech in Paris.

75 minutes earlier I was still speaking for a group in Skövde, Sweden …

But I made it.

How was that possible?

By giving my first speech in this small little crappy server room next to the venue I was speaking at in Paris.

You see, I did my first speech via Skype.

I am not a big fan of “video speeches” and I do not actively promote giving video speeches as something I do, and yet I have done two video speeches just in the last month.

First one for a conference in Rumania (from my bedroom in Sweden)

And now this second one to a group in Sweden from a server room in Paris).

I said yet to both those requests because the client had wanted me to come and speak at their conference but for scheduling purposes it was just not possible.

(And yes, I got paid my “local speaker fee” for both those speeches.)

So why do I not like doing video speeches?

Three reasons:

1) I really like to travel and meet new people and see new places. Traveling is not a down side of my job – I see it as a perk.

2) There is always the risk of the technology not working.

(For one of the speeches I did this month we literally got the skype and Internet-connection to work 2 minutes (!) before i was scheduled to talk (And then we started testing it one hour before, had tested it days earlier and I had a IT-expert to help me…)

3) My style of speaking is interactive.

It is possible to interact also via a video speech, but it is more difficult.

My best advice for giving skype-speeches is to develop your imagination so that you actually feel that you are in the room speaking.

The key words for a good keynote are “connection”, “presence”, and “authenticity” – all of that is hard to do at a distance, via a screen.

Not impossible but difficult.

By forcing yourself to feel that you are actually transmitting yourself into the computer and into the room where the audience is sitting you will make it easier for the audience to connect with you and your message.

If you do it well the audience will get almost the same feeling as if you where there.

But – watching a concert on TV or on a computer will NEVER be the same as watching the concert live.

It is the same with a speech.

But if you do it right you can get close.

Below are two quotes from the speeches I did on the same day:

Quote 1 from the “real” speech in Paris where the man and I were in the same room:

“I’d like to thank you very much for your wonderful, inspiring, & dynamic presentation you’ve made to us during CANON EXPO at Paris. I really admire your abilities & how you motivate people.”
– Regards Yasser

Quote 2 from the speech I did via Skype and where the audience and I were in different countries:
“I would like to thank you for a very interesting presentation today. It was both inspiring and thought provoking – an eye opener. I will bring this speech with me as a reference for the future.”
– Tomas Planstedt

As you can see, very similar kind of feedback.

Lesson: If you do a “long distance virtual speech” do everything you can to try to “transmit” yourself to where the audience is sitting so that they can feel how you are trying to connect with them.

When giving a skype-speech the “connection” almost becomes more important than “the message’.

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Contact Fredrik by clicking on the email symbol below.

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(Dhaka, Bangladesh)

“Let’s pause for a second.”

That is possibly the best advice you can give yourself when you are delivering a speech.

Today I got a very good reminder of that.

I was invited to speak for some of the most successful business people in Bangladesh as the guest speaker at an event organised by Standard Chartered Bank.
At the event I had been asked to speak 2 times 1.5 hours.

First session on Business Creativity
Second session on Global mindset and the Developing world.

During the first session I paused and invited the audience into the speech. It worked, and the audience was engaged, inspired and involved. In fact, it worked so well that when it was time for a break I still had a series of stories that I had not had time to deliver (pausing to let the audience into your speech takes “away” time from your speech.)

After the break I decided to try to “make up time” by cramming more content into the allotted time slot. It did not work as well as the first session.

You would think that the audience would get more out of a session that has more content – but it doesn’t work that way.

Adding more words into specific time period doesn’t add value. It just adds stress.

 

 

 

 

The great Mark Twain said it best:

“The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.”

 

 
(See how I created some space in the text to make you pause 😉

Lesson: When you feel that you are loosing the audience it’s sometimes tempting to increase your speaking pace, as if “more words” would work like “more bullets” and blasting the audience with words would somehow make it easier to get your message across.

Instead, pause. Reconnect with the audience. Give them a chance to feel where you are in your line of thought. It is not the speaker with the most words who wins. It’s the speaker who best gets his (or hers) message across.

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I have heard many speakers give the advice that the best way to connect with an audience is to pick ONE person in the audience and speak to her. To lock in eye-contact with the one person in the room that looks the happiest to be there.

The argument is that by getting good vibes from that one person will spread to the rest of the group, and if you just speak too a big mass of non-identified bodies, then you will not communicate the same intimate feeling from the stage that you would get if you connect with one person.

I am not a big fan of that advice.

First of all I think you should scan the audience for as many facial expressions as possible. Look for happy faces, sad faces, angry faces, bored faces. It will tell you how the audience is feeling. And If you are going to have a conversation with a group of people you need to know how the group is feeling.

(Identifying the “happy face” in the audience might put you in a totally wrong mood if the rest of the audience is very stressed, for example. (Let’s say most of the audience just lost their job for example, then connecting with the happy person who got to keep his job might be the totally wrong thing to do.)

So do not pick one person to speak to – speak to the whole group. (and try to get eye contact with as many people as possible as you do that.)

Now having said that, I do think you should speak specifically to one person in the group. And that is the person who booked you.

Very often the person who recommended me to the speaker committee will be in the room when I give the speech. That is the person I speak to.

Because that is the person who went out on a limb to get me to speak.

If I screw up, then he (or she) is toast.
If I do a great speech, then that person reaps the rewards.

The very best review you can get as a speaker is when the person who recommended you comes back to you and says: “Everyone came up to me and asked: where did you find this guy!?”

It is not every time that you will know who recommended you to speak, but if you find out who it was, then make an effort to be introduced to that person and make sure you do a separate “speaker brief” with him or her.

Why did he (or she) think that you would be a great fit for this conference?
What did he (or she) like about your speech the last time they heard you?
Is there anything this person thinks that you should know about the audience?

To it right and you will deliver a great speech to the one person who thought you would be perfect for this conference. And by doing that there is a very big chance that the rest of the audience will like the speech too.

Lesson: Who got you the speech? Find that person. Learn from that person. Speak to that person (Both before the speech, and then speak TO that person when you are delivering your speech.) and you will be a hit.

Today I got one such email. It read.

“People loved Fredrik’s speech. Many of them kept asking me how we got him as he is so unique and got a very special sense of humour. Our Summit ended on a high note because of Fredrik”.

Mission accomplished.

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