3 Principles for Becoming a "Crowd Favourite" Speaker
Why is it that certain speakers get people lining up to listen to them, while others switch people off?
Even in prestigious events or conferences, where each speaker has been specifically chosen to talk, certain people draw large crowds of eager onlookers while others struggle to impress.
Being a ‘crowd favourite’ doesn’t necessarily mean you’re the most confident speaker, or 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 relish hearing you speak, apply the following 3 principles into all of your future talks.
Principle 1: Let them 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 – most of the time – 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!
As speakers, anything we can do to break this monotony and inject some life into our audience’s experience is a win for them, and us.
“The best and most beautiful things in
the world cannot be seen or even touched.
They must be felt with the heart”
― Helen Keller
There are many ways to let our audience feel something:
- Telling an emotional story that pulls at the heartstrings.
- Sharing a personal challenge and allowing people to feel our vulnerability.
- Or simply communicating with a higher degree of passion and radiating this energy out to the audience
But the best way to ensure that your audience feels something, is to make sure you are.
If you can genuinely feel an emotion while communicating – be that excitement, sadness, curiosity, optimism – then your audience will automatically pick up on this and even feel some of that emotion themselves.
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 all the more affected by it.
This is the reason people return over and over to watch their favourite actors, or listen to their favourite musicians. And for the same reason, when you start to communicate in a way that elicits real emotion, people will want to hear you speak again and again.
Principle 2: Make 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, impactful 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. Pausing long enough for a silent hush to take over the crowd and all eyes to become transfixed on them, before 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.
(If you can learn to pause like this, you’ve mastered the game)
But whether you’re addressing the nation, or delivering a presentation to the team, your audience wants 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.
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Principle 3: Create a shared experience
What do humans love more than an exciting experience? Sharing an 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, involved, together.
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 speakers are able to conjure up such an atmosphere that everyone feels part of the show, sharing their excitement with their audience. How exactly do they do it?
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).
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.
- Requesting a show of hands.
- 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 such a shared experience. In turn magnifying the emotions, the anticipation and the enjoyment of every person taking part.
Every speaker wants to be the crowd favourite in the workplace, the person who wins the applause and inspires others to action. But only a rare few actually pull it off.
To do so requires not only understanding these principles, but also honing their application.
So begin now:
- Let your audience feel something.
- Make them anticipate your words.
- Create a shared experience.
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.
Remember: It’s about your audience, not you.
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