Are you a fan of TED talks?
If you don't know, go on YouTube and you can find a variety of informational and motivational talks on basically any topic under the TED or TEDx banner (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment and Design).
As a fan of these talks, I wanted to watch as many as possible. Then I realized that there are well over 2,000 of these talks online (and more being added regularly). I'll never get through them all (who has time for that??).
So...I looked up the Top 5 all time talks...I'll get to the focus of this article in a minute (here's a hint – it involves the #2 most watched TED talk), but here are the Top 5 most watched TED talks.
I've watched them all, and they all have valuable lessons, but as a Speaking and Confidence coach, Amy Cuddy's talk stood out from the bunch. I've watched her talk numerous times.
And I went to see her live.
And I bought and read her book, “Presence”.
There are many great gems of information that any speaker can glean from her words and advice. However, there are 2 questions that she outlined that you need to ask before you walk on stage to speak. 2 questions that your audience needs answers to in order to truly listen to and accept your message. Neglect them at your peril. Answer them for your crowd, and they will readily accept both you and what you have to say.
QUESTION #1 – Can I TRUST you?
According to Cuddy, the trust factor is of the highest importance when someone meets you. They want to feel your warmth. They want to feel that you have their best interest at heart. They want to feel that they can rely on you. Trust is the essential component of not only effective communication, but also of leadership. When people can trust you, they will not only listen, they will follow.
When it comes to speaking, how can you get people to trust you? Use the following 3 ways to generate trust.
Method 1: Your Stories
Your stories are what connect you to your audience. Stories excite the brain, and they are your own, you show that you are willing to open up to your audience. When you show trust enough to let them into your life, they will often reciprocate.
Method 2: Your Struggles
The second step is to show your audience that you are not perfect. When 2 people go on a first date, both are often wondering, “What is this person really like?” Most people do not reveal any of their bad habits or perceived undesirable traits, until they are much more comfortable with their partner. The relationship has reached another level when you can totally be yourself – good or bad – with your partner. Now, I'm not saying to burp in front of your audience! Just show them who you are, and what you've struggled when telling your story. If you failed, tell them your failures. If it made you feel inferior, tell them it made you feel inferior. When you show that you have failed, you build a foundation of trust with your audience.
Method 3: Your Similarities
The final step is to ensure that your listener feels that they are like you in some way. There is a simple way to make your audience feel similar to you, no matter what their background is. Get them to reflect on their own lives as you tell your story.
How do you do this? Through reflective questions. Ask a question of your audience that relates to your topic before launching into your story. When they reflect while you recall and re-tell your story, they will feel connected to you. When they feel connected, they will trust you as well.
QUESTION #2 – Can I RESPECT you?
Before we go further, keep in mind that studies show that we value warmth in a speaker over the confidence that we have in their knowledge.
That being said, there is one word that you need to remember along with Trust:
No matter where you speak, you need to give your audience a reason to believe in you. For many people, that need can be satisfied by showing your knowledge or expertise on the topic that you are speaking about.
There are 2 Ways to do this.
The first is through Education. This is easy enough. If you have degrees and PhDs, these pieces of paper speak for themselves. People like letters after someone's name. They will believe in your competence if you have them.
However, you may not have these obvious credentials to back you up. Fear not. You can use the second method, Experience, to make people believe in you. If you want to speak about overcoming adversity, and you have survived a traumatic incident, you have credibility to speak about it. There is a reason that companies pay Olympians big bucks to speak. They have experience in discipline, goal setting and determination. Do not worry if you have not been on that big a stage. YOUR stories and experiences can teach just as well as a highly paid athlete's can. Use your experience (and lessons learned) to give your audience a feeling of confidence in your competence.
Focus on those 2 questions: “Can I Trust you?” and “Can I Respect You?”, and you will capture your crowd.
Kwesi Sekou Millington (@KwesiSekou)
Speaker, Mentor, Coach
Kwesi Millington helps speakers, presenters and youth to connect with their audiences and master their messages using the power of storytelling in their speeches & presentations. He is a Certified Public Speaking Coach & Youth Mentor.