Some public speakers imagine their audience naked, others take a deep breath before their speech and others do a Superhero pose before they climb on stage. There are many little things that people use to navigate their emotions, thoughts and bodies during a speaking engagement.
Public speaking is just speaking after all but it does require confidence and a good blend of charisma and content to engage audiences.
We’ve rounded up some keynote speech tips that you can use to improve your speech delivery and pass on to less experienced speakers.
Before your keynote speech
If you’re feeling overwhelmed or anxious it’s partly because you don’t feel confident enough. One way to increase your confidence is through preparation. Are you going to present with or without a slide deck? Do you have your slides ready? Do you have detailed notes on every slide to help you remember the entire flow of your speech and how the ideas connect?
Also read: 7 Steps To Preparing A Great Keynote Speech
Confidence comes when you know you did everything to prepare for your public speaking event. This will put your mind and body at ease and that confidence will follow you on stage.
The second tip is to remember that you know what you’re talking about. You put those ideas on those slides, you ran those case studies and these are your stories that you’re presenting. Own your ideas and don’t let emotions make you forget that you know your topic.
Another exercise to help you feel more confident and relaxed is to visualize the event before it happens. Imagine the room you’ll be sitting in, the lights, your audience, the walls and carpets, every little detail. This will help your brain feel like it’s done this already when the actual speech happens so that there is no more pressure of the unknown.
On speech day
Check-in with the organizing team on the day of the event to walk through the details. Getting to know the venue and accommodating yourself with the space is a key step for a successful speech.
Experienced speakers carry a full set of adapters, connectors, cables, remotes, etc. with them at all times to avoid any logistical complications that can prove to be quite stressful.
Test your presentation on the monitors, check the microphones and see how you sound. In most cases organizers will allot some time for rehearsing but you can always ask them to let you to a quick dry run as they continue to set up the room.
During your keynote speech
Start your speech with a smile. Connecting with people will really help you set the tone for a stress-free, engaging speech. There’s no need to create an artificial behaviour, just be yourself.
Smiling will help you relax and it will help the audience be more receptive as well. People naturally mirror the body language of the person they’re talking to. That’s why persuasive people smile a lot, it’s because they have genuine enthusiasm for their ideas. This has a contagious effect on their listeners.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes. It’s human and it’s authentic. If something goes wrong it will actually give you a chance to loosen up and create a fun story for another speech. It’s how you get over these moments that helps you get more comfortable and confident.
If you’re the kind of person who uses verbal fillers, such as “um” “uh” “you know” “like” “so” “kind of” “sort of”, you need to practice getting rid of them. They diminish your credibility and make it hard for your audience to focus on the actual content. In time, you can stop using verbal fillers by having a clearly established rehearsal ritual for every speech you give, increasing your self-confidence and simply speaking slower.
Try to emphasize the last sound of each word you speak and remember to pause from time to time. Not long pauses that may indicate you’ve forgotten your next idea, but natural pauses that give your speech more impact and help you slow down your speaking. If you struggle with stutter, I recommend reading this book.
Another great pointer in your speech delivery is to avoid giving advice. Instead, tell your audience stories that are real and authentic. They will relate to stories because they are human. Advice is something that’s usually unsolicited and seems patronizing more often than not. Or it simply goes unnoticed. Stories, on the other hand, elicit an emotional response because you’ve been there and done that. People will trust you and will continue to listen to you.
As you’re getting the pulse of your audience, if you feel their attention slipping away, start asking some compelling questions. But really ask them, don’t just say them and continue thinking about what you’re going to say next. Like in a real conversation, talk to the people in front of you. Something as simple as a clarification question can show them that you care about what they’re thinking.
If you come across a divergent opinion or someone calls out another point of view in these conversations, conceding the point is an important tactic of persuasion. Admitting that your argument is not perfect (unless it’s an unquestionable scientific study) shows that you are open minded and willing to make adjustments. No one likes inflexible people. Persuasive speakers allow others to be entitled to their opinions and they treat these opinions as valid, because it demonstrates respect.
After the speech
Some events hold the Q&A session after the actual speech. If that’s the case, a good idea is to go closer to people and grab a chair to sit down for a casual chat. The less formal environment will help people feel more confident to ask their questions. It also gives people a chance to connect with you individually and offer their ideas or exchange business cards.
If you’ve written a book or more, you can discuss with the event organizers to gave a book signing appendage to your speech or a meet and greet.
Once the event is over, it’s important to actively seek feedback from the organizers and the public, including photos and quotes you can use to promote yourself for other engagements. The sooner you schedule follow-up meetings, the better, this way you won’t forget anyone. Oh, and remember to connect with these people on Social Media, you never know where your next speaking invite comes from.
What other tips can you share with us for delivering memorable keynote speeches?