Tomorrow is our student government election day. Before everyone hits the polls, we’ll be hearing speeches from the candidates. These are always interesting. While none of the candidates are professional communicators, you can tell who does it better than others.
If I could sit down with each of the candidates as they put their speech together, I’d offer the following advice and suggestions:
- A speech is an experience.
You need to think about how you want people to feel after they hear your speech. You want to elicit certain emotions and ask for a commitment (ie, I want you to vote for me!). It’s so much more than the words you say. It’s how you say them that will connect.
In one ear and out the other.
It’s a common cliche’ of a critique where a conversation (or perhaps a monologue) ends with one person feeling like the other didn’t listen.
They heard you. They nodded their head in affirmation. They even recited back to you word for word what you just said. But listening did not take place.
What was missing was the one element that moves hearing into the realm of listening. It’s called teachability.
It’s difficult to get people’s attention. It’s even harder to keep people’s attention.
Making a speech is part communication, part theater. That’s right, you’re an actor/actress on a stage. You finally get your chance to make your presentation, your talk, your big speech. Now that you have their attention, you must now spend your precious time entertaining, as well as educating.
One of the most encouraging pieces of advice I’ve ever heard when it comes to public speaking: Your audience wants you to succeed. That’s great news. They want you to do well. They want to connect with you and your message. And the ones who deliver, the ones who are rewarded with the attention of their audience, are those who add a bit of drama to their presentation.
I’m telling you, a little drama can save your whole speech.
Listen to this…people are making a decision within the first 30 seconds about whether they can trust you, whether they’ll listen to you. That tells me I need to find some way to connect with my listeners…and fast.
But…what if I blow it in the first 30 seconds to 3 minutes? What if my opening bombs and people start checking out.
Is it over? Should I simply stop and refund everyone’s money?
When I was in the third grade, the popular way (and most direct way) to ask a girl if she liked you was to write her a note expressing your affection and at the bottom give her three options to check her answer (Yes!, no, and my personal favorite…maybe). Then you’d give the note to your friend, who gave it to her friend, who hopefully passed it on to the girl it was intended for.
Of course, my preferred response (but often left unchecked) was a “yes,” but at the very least, I had let her know her options.
When you communicate with others and you need something from them, make sure and clarify the appropriate response you expect from them.