Rethink public speaking: 5 ways to get off the stage
I am always looking out for great speakers to come and impart their expertise at Like Minds, and one of the ways that I do this is by reading a lot of blog posts by a range of different people. It’s easier to find an expert on an issue by searching for text than video. However more often that not – in fact, around 90% of the time – I find that the great writers I research turn out to be very poor at speaking.
The peculiar thing about this is that it isn’t just the writers. Even people who I talk to face-to-face and have engaging conversations with often end up being very poor when it comes to public speaking.
Here’s what I realised: both the great conversationalists and the great writers aren’t actually bad at communicating, and they aren’t bad at speaking and engaging – it’s just that when they get put on a stage, they go into presentation mode and loose all the charisma, passion and warmth that they had before they went on.
It’s a type of stage fright that turns interesting social people into boring broadcast people. But luckily, you can get out of it.
Learning how to get off the stage, when you’re on stage
As I said, I find most people to be very interesting in a one-on-one or small group conversation, and the reason why is because it is a conversation. We are used to giving not just words but non verbal communication, our attention, our passion, our sympathy, and more, within conversations. But put someone on stage and all of sudden it becomes a presentation to them.
So the trick is learning how to act off stage while you are on stage. And to help you do that, here’s five really easy quick musts for you to follow:
1. Make it a participation not a presentation. The moment you can free your mind from having to present, and instead can focus on having the pleasure to participate in an experience means it’s no longer about YOU. You realise that actually, it’s not about the quality of what you say, it’s the quality of how people feel. So don’t make it all about what you say – get some audience interaction – make it a conversation in which you are just one of the parties.
In fact, one of the first things you should always do when you begin a participation is to get people to participate by a show of hands, clap, or something similar. It makes people feel involved.
2. Tell stories. It’s funny how many people who go on about story telling in media don’t actually tell stories. Instead, they bore us with boring images of others telling a story. And if you think it’s about how well you tell the story, you’ve missed the point. Story telling is really about providing a clear example that someone plays out in their mind as you are telling it.
If I told you now that I spent yesterday eating bananas, what have you just thought of? That mental involvement – you actually picturing a banana – is far more valuable than me showing you a picture of a banana because it means that you mind is active not passive, and that means that you are participating.
3. Reveal your wounds. When someone talks about how they got it right all the time, we feel inferior. But when someone reveals how they failed a dozen times before they got there, it inspires us and endears us to the speaker.
Now don’t go trashing yourself – but the ability to use weakness once or twice in a talk to help people identify with you is incredibly powerful.
4. Be brief. The old speaker proverb goes, “blessed are the short winded, for they shall be invited back.” Being brief not only makes the organisers happy, but it shows you respect the minds of people enough to keep things precise and not laborious, and that you credit them as being intelligent enough for you to say things once, not a dozen times in the same talk.
Also remember that after 30 minutes people are hearing more from their bottoms than from you.
5. Rehearse. A lot. Whoever thought that rehearsal made something inauthentic wasn’t a good speaker themselves. We rehearse everything in our lives so a speech shouldn’t be different. Rehearsing means that you have got the speech so automated in your mind that you can let go of the notes and instead focus on the participants – because they are the ones that matter.
And if your eyes are off the notes, then it means they can be on the faces in the crowd. In fact, what I do is look at as many people as possible in the eye.
It’s not public speaking
Hopefully – if you can put these five practical tips together – then you’ll be able to get off the stage while being on stage. But that’s the practical part.
The deeper part is to realise that it’s not about public speaking at all. The phrase in fact reeks of broadcast. What I’m more interested in is personally imparting. Imparting means that I take something that is mine, and using the practical points above to be a selfless as possible, I impart what I have to others as personally as possib;le.
The masters of this – like many of our Like Minds Alumni – have the ability to talk to hundreds of people in a crowd, but make each one feel like they are talking to them.
Your Leading Thoughts
Before you go off and become a marvellous, awe-inspiring public speaker, take a moment to add to this list – what is your top public speaking tip?