I believe it was Mary Kay who said that everyone has an invisible sign around their neck that reads “Make me feel Special”.
Everyone wants to feel important. There is a reason that Dale Carnegie says that your name is the most important word in any language to you. Most speakers believe that they are special, and that the audience is simply there to soak in what they have to say. As speakers, we are not gurus. We simply borrow advice from the Universe, our mentors, and those that have gone before us, and we share it. Let's work on making our audiences the stars of our talks, not ourselves.
How do you make each audience that you speak to feel special? One word: Customization.
Use any of the following 5 methods when you speak to customize your talk for each audience that you share it with. Keep in mind that these can be small adjustments that you make to an already existing talk. Make these small additions to your speech, and your audience will truly feel unique and special.
CALL OUT #1 – The Audience Call-Out
When you arrive to your speaking venue, speak to some people in the group before you get up on stage. Find out about them. Ask what their concerns are and find the “feel” of the group. Sometimes when you speak, the person who brought you in may not have given you all of the concerns that really exist. Often, you can talk to someone in the audience to flush out the real fears and frustrations that the group may be facing. Or maybe you just might hear a good story that – with permission from that person – you can refer to in your speech. When you get up to speak, and mention someone that the audience knows well - whether that be a person that you just met or the person that brought you in – you become a friend to that group, not just a stranger.
CALL OUT #2 – The Culture Call-Out
My favorite speaker, Les Brown, said that he once spoke to a real estate company whose slogan was “It's as Good as Done!” During his speech, he gave the audience a call to action, then told them that once they took that action, “it's as good as done!”. He could have said something else, but by mentioning the exact slogan of the company, he connected with them and received a rousing reaction because of it.
Can you seamlessly integrate a company name, slogan or culture reference into your speech that makes your listeners feel as if your speech is just for THEM?
CALL OUT #3 – The City Call-Out
I'm a long time wrestling fan. Yes, I know wrestling is fake. I don't care. It's entertaining. A long time favorite of mine was the actor Dwayne Johnson, known back in his wrestling days as “The Rock”. The reason he was so popular was mostly because of what was called his “mic skills”. That is, his ability to give great monologues and interviews. During one of his legendary talks, he mentioned the city that he was in. He didn't do just that however. He mentioned the city airport by name, a specific street that he was driving on in that city, and a well-known restaurant in the city where he had lunch. After he mentioned each well-known landmark, he elicited a roaring applause from the audience.
If you can get specific with your audience, they will feel special. It doesn't take much. Know the culture of the country that you are speaking in, or simply a simple fact about the city or town. Paying attention to where you are can make a huge difference.
CALL OUT #4 – The Current Event Call-Out
Is there a current event in the news? Is there a popular topic that you can refer to? People like a speech that sounds fresh, not canned. By simply mentioning something that is going on in the world, you can immediately make your talk sound more lively. And here's a tip – the more current the event, the better. Calling out something that happened today or this week is even more powerful than a general current trend.
CALL OUT #5 – The Speaker Call-Out
If you are speaking at an event that has multiple speakers, don't just show up when it's your turn to speak. Show up early. Take notes. Sometimes a previous speaker may get a strong reaction or big laugh. Something unexpected may happen that took everyone by surprise. There are many opportunities to add to your speech at the last minute based on something you observed that day. Keep in mind that Recency, Rules. It can be as simple as mentioning, “When (previous speaker) said (previous thought that got a reaction), …. (go into your point).” Look for opportunities to make your speech sound fresh.
Customization of your speech, as you can see, is not difficult. Add a simple call-out to your next talk to ensure that everyone feels - as Mary Kay suggested – that they truly are special.
Keep Speaking, Sharing and Serving
Kwesi Sekou Millington
Certified Speech & Presentations Coach
Storytelling Expert & Speech Writer
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.