When I heard him the first time, I was impressed. He caught the group’s attention from the first moment with an old joke that somehow gave the audience belly laughs. Coach and TV commentator Lou Holtz. didn’t give any earth-shattering pearls of wisdom, but the genuine and sincere way he spoke caused most in attendance to take notes on even the most obvious of points. He was flat-out, knock-down good. How he spoke was as important as what he said.
But I wanted to know one thing: How can a coach who spends all his time screaming at college kids about Xs and Os, give a better presentation than most expert speakers who live eat and breathe the technical ideas they talk about? The answer might just lie in a few observable and transferable secrets that are so simplistic that anyone can pick them up.
Tell ‘em what you are going to tell ‘em
Some of the best speakers I have ever heard religiously inform a group exactly what it is they will walk out of the room with. Most speakers have an interesting title for their speech yet stick loosely to the topic, if at all. The best of the bunch will tell you what you are going to hear and then ask if you want to hear it. Of course a good speaker (and a great salesman) who has done his homework rarely asks a question if he doesn’t already know the answer.
But the Lou Holtzes of the world usually ask a rhetorical question before each major point. This shows the group that you know them and will help them with their problems. Speakers who want to make an impact on a group give them content they will retain far longer than the coffee break afterward.
Make your speech into a fireside chat
Every major political figure in America has utilized the FDR model of the fireside chat. I can’t think of a single presentation that wouldn’t benefit from the kind of chat you’d have with a group of friends.
The way to convey this level of informality is to use the word “you” and talk as if it were one or two people in the room instead of 50. If you’re thinking that this is impossible, think again. People learn best in informal settings. Didn’t the best speakers you have heard in the past make you think that you could be their best friend? Another way to convey this level of intimacy is to ask questions of the group at least every 5 to 10 minutes.
Next month, learn more about the impact of including compelling, personal stories in your presentations.