You’ve just been introduced, the crowd is clapping, and you’re heading up to the podium. For hours, they’ve been PowerPointed to death, and now it’s nearly lunch. You’ve only got a moment to make an impression – how do you capture your audience?
That’s the situation that Kare Anderson, a former Emmy-winning journalist for NBC and the Wall Street Journal, confronts regularly. A co-founder of the Say It Better Center, Anderson is a public speaker and consultant on how people can improve their quotability and collaboration. Here are four audience-grabbing techniques she shared with me in a recent interview.
- Be specific sooner. No one is rooting for you to fail. The audience wants to be edified and entertained. But sometimes we make it almost impossible for them by going into corporate speak. “The smarter we are and the more we think we know,” says Anderson, “the less likely we are to start with something relevant, actionable, and interesting.” She praises entrepreneurs Richard Branson and Chip Conley for their concrete stories and real world approach: “It’s surprising to me that more people who are the face of their company don’t speak like human beings,” says Anderson.
- Make a connection. Anderson calls this her “connected to what?” dictum. It’s hard for people to process numbers outside our day-to-day experience – trillions of dollars, or nanoseconds, or light years. Instead, make it relevant to the human experience and have some fun with your comparisons. One possible example, says Anderson, is “Put on this medical patch and you’ll feel the effect faster than a Porsche can go from 0-90.”
- Watch what works. You may be surprised by what audiences respond to, says Anderson: “We often don’t know what resonates. When I first started speaking, I’d say something offhand and people cracked up – but I didn’t think it was an important point, and I’d be startled.” But what you think is important or funny is a lot less important than what the audience thinks. If you’re consistently getting a response, either positive or negative, learn from it and adapt.
- Stick to three points. “Our mind can’t hold more than three points,” says Anderson – so don’t push your luck by citing endless reams of data. Instead, be clear on your overall theme and create sub-groupings of key points, and your audience will be far more likely to enjoy and remember your talk.
What are your strategies for crafting and delivering a successful speech? Any advice to share?
This post originally appeared on the Forbes website.
Dorie Clark is CEO of Clark Strategic Communications and the author of Reinventing You: Define Your Brand, Imagine Your Future (Harvard Business Review Press, 2013). She is a strategy consultant who has worked with clients including Google, Yale University, and the Ford Foundation. Listen to her podcasts or follow her on Twitter.