The Art of Showing Up — VirtuallyJuly 31, 2020
Whose Shoes are You Trying to Fill?August 28, 2020
No truer words have been spoken. Without an audience we wouldn’t need the podium—or lectern, or whatever the virtual meeting equivalent of that is.
The biggest challenge speakers face almost always boils down to finding their next audience, unless you’re Simon Sinek, or Brené Brown, or some other renowned speaker. The thing is, just because you might not be as famous or well known as those speakers, that doesn’t mean there aren’t great audiences in your future too.
Nor would I suggest that your goal should be to become the next Simon Sinek or Brené Brown so you can get in front of bigger audiences. But obviously, A-list speakers are doing something right and we’d be smart to learn from them. In my opinion there are two things that stand out with just about every A-list speaker I’ve heard speak.
The first is evidence of the speaker’s deep appreciation of what the message they’re sharing could mean to someone’s future. They know they solve a specific problem for a specific audience and are sincere in their desire to share their solution(s) with those audiences. It’s not like they break out in tears on stage, but it can be really humbling to realize this as a speaker—we have the ability to help someone improve some aspect of their life… whether it’s something big or small. A-list speakers (whether you like them or not) get this. It’s why their audiences like them. They feel like the speaker is there specifically for them, to help them.
Second, pros deliver during their first minute on stage. Yes, this is about first impressions. And yes, there are varying opinions about how long someone has to make a good first impression. The pros don’t think in terms of how many seconds they have though. They just know they have to start with something that’s going to have their audiences paying attention, listening, engaging, and/or interacting right from the get-go. This is why they don’t start with “Thank yous” or by listing their credentials. (Feel free to check out any TED or TEDx talk for proof.)
Instead they creatively get right to the point by doing things like:
- Asking and answering questions about the problem(s) their audience struggles with—the one(s) they have a solution for. Or they might challenge something the audience thinks or believes about the problem. This isn’t meant to make the audience right or wrong. It’s a way for the speaker to let the audience know he/she understands their situation and is sincerely there for them.
- Starting with a heart-felt story that gets right to the point. Pros understand the power of stories and usually have several in their speaker inventory. Then it’s just a matter of choosing (and adapting if necessary) the best story to use to quickly convey the main points of their signature presentation to that specific audience.
- Connecting via something they learn about their next audience ahead of time. For example, the speaker might read the local newspaper, or the online equivalent, looking for something both local and relevant to start things off. If they’re speaking to an organization or a business, they do their homework to find out more about the audience. They might read through a website or a trade journal to make sure they’re up to date with the audience’s “language.” The goal with these is to give the audience reasons to believe that the speaker understands them and is there to speak to them rather than to deliver another boring canned presentation.
We all work so hard to find our next audience when the reality is that when we do our best to connect with our audiences as soon as we take the stage, finding the next audience is going to be easier because people will remember us—for all the right reasons!
‘Til we speak again,
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