How to be a Successful Speaker

Everyone wants to be famous. But nobody wants to put in the work. A huge aspect to being successful, especially in the age of the internet, television, and social media, people need to know how to speak. They need to know how to be an effective communicator and how to get the message they really want to convey out to the world.

I decided to explore this topic because this is really something I myself need to learn. I am trying to start making my name a real brand, so I need to know how to convey this message. Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, then you most likely are also wanting to learn how to convey your message. Maybe you have a big speech coming up, as my brand grows, so will my opportunity to do public speaking events, so I will for sure be delving into this aspect as well. To really understand how to be good at public speaking, I needed to break down just communication at the most basic of levels.

How Communication Works

The Communication Loop

At the crudest level, there are always two parties involved in the conveying of a message. There is the sends and the receiver. The sender has a message that is to be sent to the receiver, but there is the coding process first.

The coding process of a message is the planning stage: How is the sender going to send the message? What is the sender going to say? What medium will the sender use?

All of this is part of the coding, then there is the delivery process. This is where the message has been coded and is now being sent. This can be through an auditory, visual, or written medium. Usually, it is done in a combination of these. For example, a PowerPoint is the written representation of what is to be said, but the speaker saying the message is the auditory aspect. When the message is delivered face to face, then there is a visual medium of body language. All of these parts are then sent to the receiver who has to do the opposite of the coding and decode the message.

When decoding, any aspect of the message can give it a totally different meaning. The example of this would be if the sender were to say, “I am a hard worker.” But the body language associated with it is that of someone being lazy, the decoding would show that the statement was either ironic or sarcastic. After decoding, the receiver must then respond, thus continuing the loop to create a conversation.

How to Give Better Speeches

Now we get to the good part. The section of the article that everyone has been waiting for: How to use the communication loop to enhance your public speeches.

One of the most Googled topics is “how to give a speech” and one of the greatest fears people have is public speaking. So, I will cover a few tips on how to optimize your speeches and to help get rid of some of the anxiety that comes with them.

  1. First and foremost, I will talk about overcoming the anxiety associated with giving speeches. A lot of the fear comes from not knowing how the audience will receive the message. To compensate for this, get a trusted friend or colleague to read through your speech or just to discuss the ideas with. You want to make sure that you aren’t giving just one side of the argument. This tends to be a major flaw in many speeches and it turns the speech from informative to just inciting an argument. This tends to be why there is so much disagreement in politics. Both sides of the spectrum will only spout off facts that support their own stance. So, as you are coming up with your speech, make sure to know the common counter arguments to whatever you’re saying so that you can either offer a rebuttal to the questions or answer the question before it becomes an actual question. That’s where the other person comes in to play. Having another person there to give feedback and help come up with questions for you to address early on will help immensely. A perfect example of this can come from my dad. My dad is a pastor and before he gives a sermon on Sunday, he spends the whole week preparing. He will often ask for the thoughts of my mom when approaching sensitive topics. This just gives him a new perspective on whatever he is going to preach about.
  2. Don’t write out the speech word for word beforehand, instead outline. This is essentially how to properly set up a PowerPoint to coincide with your speech. You never want to read word for word whatever you have to say because it takes out the humanity and realness of the speech. It’s very unlikely that you are a trained actor, so don’t just read a script like one. It’s also important to remember that some of the best moments in cinematic history are improv, so your speech should fit more like this. You have an outline that just tells you the main talking points, but your examples and stories going along with the outline need to be more organic. This helps foster a connection with the audience.
  3. Know your audience. Never under any circumstances go in blind to a speech. This is the ultimate key to disaster. If possible, arrive early and try to mingle with some people in the audience. Not only does this offer an opportunity to gauge their reactions, it also can give you some extra stories for the speech. If you were to say “I was talking to Tom before we started…” then it already gives you immediate connection to the audience and helps when you get stuck. Plus, they may ask a question during the conversation that gives a new perspective and allows you to improve your speech further. You never want to have a speech to the level of kindergarteners, but then the audience is actually college level students. Make sure you know who you are presenting to so that you can adjust the speech accordingly.
  4. Engage the audience. I’m not saying make group activities or anything like that. In fact, forcing people into doing an activity would do the exact opposite of engage the audience. What you can do though is when designing a PowerPoint, print out paper copies to hand out to the audience so they can make notes on there as desired. You can also ask questions that require responses, but make sure the question isn’t too difficult because if someone doesn’t know the answer, they may feel stupid for not knowing. I recommend not directing the question at a single person either, doing so forces people into the spotlight and they may not really enjoy that. If you are wanting to have someone in the spotlight, watch how Tony Robbins does this. He has numerous YouTube videos that are perfect examples of giving great speeches.
  5. Focus on the beginning and the ending the most. If you are able to do a great job at opening a speech, you will be remembered for that. Equally important is the ending. Think of a cool action movie, they all have incredible one-liners that are incredibly quotable. Forest Gump ends topics by saying “That’s all I got to say about that.” In Die Hard there is the iconic “Yipee Ki-yay motherf*****.” They’re just iconic. So, to make your speech memorable, throw in a piece of wisdom at the end that sums up the speech well and is easily remembered. It will help your speech be remembered.

Tying it Together

Now you’re probably wondering how tips on giving a speech and the communication loop are connected. Well, like I said early on, every time there is communication, two parties are involved. It doesn’t matter that the Sender may be giving a speech and the Receiver may be a whole audience. This actually makes it simpler to give a speech. When giving the speech it may help to be conscious of the fact that the receiver may be decoding the message differently than the Sender is intending. To counter that, when outlining your speech and thinking of how to deliver it, make sure to code the information as clearly as possible. This means you may need to spend an extra hour or two focusing on your PowerPoint or simplifying the language so as not to misconstrue the intended message. This also means, you need to be conscious of your body language when giving the speech. Watch any passionate speeches of old, Teddy Roosevelt, who was shot and continued to give a speech; Martin Luther King Jr. who was under constant threat of death and injury; Tony Robbins who has to communicate a message to an entire stadium of people; Any president who has to get the message to an entire nation. They all have their words match their body language. You don’t even really need a PowerPoint (Which means having a backup hard copy of the outline would be extremely useful. Plus, who knows if the technology will actually be working for your speech.). Just make sure all aspects of the speech are as clear as possible, and you can be a more effective communicator, not only for speeches, but in home with you significant other or just to your friends. Effective communication is one of the greatest powers any person can have. If Adolf Hitler can use communication to get his message across, think about how much easier it is to get a message that helps people to be accepted.

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