The best way to speak to an audience is to use clear, simple language and to express your enthusiasm about the topic on which you are presenting. If you do those two things, you will go a long way in speaking effectively to any audience.
Energy matters as much as content. You want to connect with the audience, establishing an emotional connection. Your enthusiasm helps to accomplish this feat, but also sharing personal revelations about yourself helps because telling stories about yourself humanizes you and allows the audience to latch onto something at a personal level. Telling stories go beyond just conveying information.
You may feel a little vulnerable in telling a story in which you were not perfect, but it’s exactly that which forms the emotional connection; it’s based on vulnerability as a strength. Establish a personal connection with the audience.
Here is a simple formula to structure a story. To tell a good story, you should describe continuously increasing risk and potentially intense consequences, but then give the audience a conclusion that they were not expecting. Bang, you’ve got the audience.
Of course, preparation is key. You don’t want to just show up and present to an audience. Even if you know the topic well, it is best to always do preparation, even if only a refresher, so you stay sharp.
The following are six tips on improving your speaking to an audience, large or small:
- Have a powerful opening and closing to your talk.
- Don’t use jargon. Not even industry jargon with people in the industry. Useful colorful and expressive language.
- Don’t use filler words, such as “ah” and “uhm” or “like.” (You may have to record yourself in a practice session to hear yourself using filler words.)
- If you are asked a difficult question, pivot. This means to shift your answer away from the crux of the question. (Politicians do this all the time. Don’t lie, however. Just pivot away from a sensitive subject. Practice doing it smoothly.) To give yourself time to think, you can always say instantly, “That’s a great question.” Then pause.
- Focus on telling the audience something they don’t know.
- Make each person in the audience use their imagination.
And if you are serious about becoming a better speaker and you want to practice your public speaking skills, you can always join Toastmasters. Several Toastmasters groups exist around the world on different days at different times. You can find a meeting that works for your schedule.
Investing your time in improving your speaking skills is an investment in yourself. It is also a critical skill that you will use again, and again, and again, and again, and again as an entrepreneur. Whether it’s with your team, investors, customers, or even at some major conference or event, you must master the art of speaking to an audience. It will make you a much better person and ultimately propel you far ahead as an entrepreneur.