Crowd Favourite: 3 Principles for Great Public Speaking
4 min read
What you’ll learn:
- How to engage people with emotion.
- Using anticipation to build intrigue.
- Why connecting people together is so powerful.
Great public speaking can make you a "crowd favourite".
But why do so few people crack this code?
Even at events and conferences, where each speaker has been specifically chosen to talk, certain people draw large crowds, while others struggle to engage.
Being a ‘crowd favourite’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the most confident speaker, or even the most objectively capable. But you do need to understand (and implement) one key idea:
In any speech, talk, presentation or pitch – it’s about the audience, not you.
If you want your colleagues and peers to love hearing you speak, apply the following 3 principles of great public speaking.
Principle 1: Let people feel something.
Why are we drawn to films, theatre, art and music?
Because of the strong emotions they elicit within us: fear, excitement, suspense and joy.
These emotions are what make us feel alive. But for most people – our emotional senses are dulled by the day-to-day humdrum of modern life. This is especially true in the workplace, where many people’s typical daily emotions range from boredom to stress, and perhaps relief by 5pm when it’s time to go home!
A great speaker is able to break this monotony and inject some life and passion into an audience’s experience.
There are many ways to do this:
- Telling an emotional story that pulls the heartstrings.
- Sharing a personal challenge and being vulnerable.
- Communicating with passion and expressing yourself openly.
To ensure your audience feels something, make sure you do.
Be that excitement, sadness, curiosity, optimism – whatever you feel on the inside, your audience will pick up on and feel that too. For more understanding, read about mirror neurons here.
This is also the art of good acting. To genuinely portray an emotion the actor must themselves authentically feel it. As the viewer, we pick up on this “truth” in the performance, and feel connected to it.
This is the reason people return to watch their favourite actors. It’s the reason we listen to our favourite musicians. For the same reason, when you start to communicate in a way that elicits real emotion, people will want to hear you speak again too.
Principle 2: Let them anticipate your words.
“If emotion lights up the heart, anticipation is what excites the mind.”
The most loved speakers have mastered the art of anticipation.
They are intimately comfortable holding silence long enough for their audience to begin wondering, guessing, and even waiting with baited breath.
There’s another parallel here that we can draw between great acting, and great speaking. The most poignant moments in any scene are often not the characters lines of dialogue, but the moments between them. In acting-terms these are referred to as “pregnant pauses’.
These moments of pause are imbued with significance and palpable tension. As the viewer, we’re able to revel in the suspense, thinking “what will happen next?”
Orators have employed this tactic for time-imorial.
You can even do this when opening your speech. Pausing long enough for a silent hush to take over the crowd and all eyes to be on them; and only then revealing their next thought.
Former president Obama is a modern example, and was notorious for using the “pregnant pause” to add a weight of anticipation to his speeches. (learn to pause like this and you’ve mastered the game)
But whether you’re addressing the nation or delivering a presentation to the team, your audience to enjoy these moments of intrigue.
By mastering the art of building anticipation and utilizing the pregnant pause, you’ll become the one person everyone is excited to hear from.
Principle 3: Create a shared experience.
What do humans love more than an exciting experience?
A shared exciting experience.
Think of the last time you experienced a packed out music gig – the whole crowd singing along in unison. Or when you’ve sat in an audience and the whole room erupts into laughter as the comedian delivers the punch-line.
As humans we crave this experience of being part of something together. Therefor, if you can successfully implement the first two principles – eliciting emotion and building anticipation – the audience will already begin to feel a sense of shared experience.
But truly great public speaking requires conjuring up such an atmosphere that everyone feels part of.
How exactly do you do it?
Step 1. Connect with your audience.
Ensure that every single person in the room feels that you’re speaking directly to them. We do this by looking them in the eyes, acknowledging their presence, and directing our words equally around the room without leaving anyone out.
Amateur speakers often fall at this first hurdle by gazing only at the front rows (or worse still at their slides).
Step 2. Connect them with eachother.
Once everyone feels connected to you, the next step is to get them feeling connected to each other. This can be done through audience participation, asking direct questions, or inviting people up onto the stage.
You can even instruct your audience to break into groups, talk amongst themselves, or engage in any number of activities. The only limit here is your imagination – but the objective is simple: get people to connect not only with you, but with each-other.
The outcome of this audience interaction is that we’re able to create a shared experience. Magnifying the emotions, the anticipation and the enjoyment of every person taking part.
Great public speaking is open to everyone.
Every speaker wants to be the crowd favourite in the workplace, the person who wins the applause and inspires others to action. However, only a rare few actually pull it off.
By perfecting these techniques and becoming a speaker who puts the audience first, you will quickly see your opportunities to speak multiply, your fans grow in number and in loyalty, and your position as a person of influence rapidly take root.
Ready to master great public speaking? Put these skills into practise with our public speaking courses and coaching.
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