Have you ever felt as if you just lost your audience while speaking?
You may have been going along well, people were attentive, and then...something just felt flat all of a sudden. You could feel that their
minds all of a sudden went somewhere else. I've had that feeling, and it's awful. If you're like me in these situations, you would rather be anywhere else but right there speaking at that moment. Why does that happen?
Because you were not speaking to everyone in the audience!
I am from Canada, one of the most multicultural countries in the world. There are numerous races, religions and beliefs in every room that I speak in. But at the end of the day, we are all humans. We respond to and experience the same emotions. We all get happy, sad, glad and mad.
And we all respond to a remarkably similar way to 3 things in speaking, facts/statistics, inspirational/motivational topics, and humour.
Thanks to inserting a bit of all three into my speeches, I am able to connect with a high percentage of my audience members on a consistent basis. A caveat: As speaker Les Brown says, there will always be that one out of every 10 people that just does NOT like you for whatever reason, so there's no reaching them. However the majority of people WILL respond if you use the following 3F's to speak to EVERYONE in the room.
1) Facts (Make me Smarter)
Some people are analytical. They want to hear what you have to say, however they want to learn something as a result of listening to you. Most people will admit that they have not learned everything they need to learn in life, and some of these people do not want to waste any time listening to a speaker if there is not some tangible piece (or pieces) of information that they will take from their time listening to you. So give them something to make them feel (and become) smarter. It may be reminding them of something that they already know, but give 'em the facts.
Give them a tangible idea or advice to apply to their lives. If your talk is about building confidence, then tell them your story, then give them advice on how to build their confidence – whether it be a book, consulting a mentor, or using self-talk. Whatever advice you learned on your topic, give your audience the “how-to” to apply it.
2) Feelings (Make me Emotional)
Some people are emotional. Actually, everyone is emotional, but some people want to be taken to emotional highs during your talk. They want to feel good; they want to feel motivated; they want to feel inspired. What you say is important. However, how you make them FEEL is even more important. Think of African American pastors in churches. Sure, they are preaching the Word of God – but the WAY they do it – the feeling BEHIND the words – is what people take away. No matter where you speak, there will be some people that want some change in their emotions before you finish speaking.
The easiest way to invoke feelings from your audience and to touch their emotions, is to BE real yourself.
Even if you are not an “emotional” speaker, you can stir feelings in people if you are honest and transparent in your storytelling. Start with values that YOU are passionate about and tell YOUR stories. And don't just tell your stories, RE-LIVE them. If you faced a disappointment in your life and are telling a story about it, tell the story as if it was happening right now. Remember that disappointment as you deliver your lines from the story. Envision the scene as you re-tell it. When you tell the story, say the lines of dialogue EXACTLY as they happened in the real event. Look at a person in the audience and for a minute, MAKE them that person that you spoke to in that event. Your audience will see your emotions and live vicariously through you, even if just for a minute. Don't stare too long though, you don't want to scare the person!
Re-live your stories, and the audience will live – and feel – them too.
3) Funny (Make me Laugh)
Finally, there are some people in your audience that want to laugh. Let's face it – life can be heavy at times, and sometimes your audience is a captive one, forced to sit down and listen to you. If they leave feeling lighter and better than when they came in, then you have won (and you'll probably be invited back). Humour is one of the best ways to do that. Think of everyone that comes in to watch your speech as having an acceptance “force field” around them. People can appear very cold at times, and the truth is that they are not always open to hearing what you have to say. When you make them laugh, you tear down the force field, people relax, and your message will be more likely to be accepted.
As World Champion Speaker Craig Valentine says, you don't add humour to your speeches, you “uncover it”. Look for something someone said to you in a story that was funny or unexpected, or look for a paraprosdokian twist – when the listener expects something at the end of a sentence, then you throw a twist in. Comedians are known for that. Sometimes you may think that your speech is an inspirational one where humour does not belong – I used to think that all the time. I used to say, “this is an uplifting speech about a serious topic – there's no room for humour in here!” However, I have found that heavy topics weigh people down, and just like swimmers in a pool, you need to let them come up for air. It can be a small amount of humour, but a sprinkling of smiles in your speech will do wonders for connecting with your audience.
Every audience you speak to will be filled with different sexes, cultures, beliefs and backgrounds. However, almost everyone will respond to either the Facts, the Feelings, or the Funny in your speeches. So add the 3Fs to your talk, and people will be talking about YOU! (in a Positive Way)
Think of your NEXT speech...how will YOU add the 3Fs to your next talk?
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.