Jerry Seinfeld (although I have also seen it attributed to Mark Twain 🤷🏼♀️) once said he’d rather be in the casket at the funeral than deliver the eulogy.
It is true that many leaders and entrepreneurs find presenting uncomfortable. CEO of the mega-successful brand, Gymshark, Ben Francis has gone out of his way to learn the art of public speaking and become a better communicator. As his company became more successful, he was required to step in front of an audience and could see and feel how they mirrored his own awkwardness. He realised it was ‘selfish’ of him ‘not to take the time to get better at interaction.’Read more
He has and is now not only an impressive leader but also an influencer who has 250k YouTube subscribers and 335k followers on Instagram.
So, where do you start? How DO you influence, impact, and inspire an audience?
How to influence an audience
Educate: Know your stuff. Be known as the expert, but don’t lecture. Balance facts with personal stories and give value. Be objective, provide relevant evidence and be strategic.
Most importantly, know your audience. It’s not about you it’s about them. Why are they there? What do they want to take away from hearing you speak? What questions would you ask if you were them? To be an effective influencer take their perspective.
Engage: Learn the art of public speaking. It’s not easy but it is simple. Use your voice! Fine-tune it. It’s produced by a set of muscles that need a regular workout; the intercostal muscles (in between your ribs), the diaphragm (attached to the bottom of the ribcage), the abdominals and the vocal cords. Use voice and breathing exercises to strengthen and support your voice so that it becomes an effective and engaging communication tool, a finely tuned instrument. Vocal variety and the use of pitch, tone, and pause will give you the ability to choose how to tell your story and share your message, with passion, emotion, or authority.
Entertain: Humour has its place even in the most serious and professional settings. It will put your audience at ease and help them warm to you. Tell stories, but not just the funny ones. Pick some tough ones too, from your own experience, the stories you’ve learnt from. Not to elicit sympathy but to build trust and validate others’ experiences. Again, balance the data with stories. Writer Maya Angelou said, ‘People won’t remember what you said, but they will remember how you made them feel.’
When preparing your talk, edit, edit, and edit again – less is more. Presentations are boring when they have too much content. Structure your presentation so that it has a journey. A strong beginning; start with a disturbing fact or a question. An effective middle; the ‘why’ and the ‘value’ and finish strongly, with a solid conclusion and a flourish, maybe.
How to impact an audience?
Make sure you believe in your message and the impact it can have. If you believe it, your audience will too. It will resonate and you will create an audience that will know, like and trust you.
Start with a bold statement or disturbing fact. A provocative opening will ensure to grab attention, as will asking a question. It’s a powerful way of engaging your audience from the start.
According to American Psychologist, Dr Paul Ekman there are 5 basic human emotions, anger, fear, disgust, enjoyment, and sadness. In order to make the maximum impact with your talk, use an emotion relevant to your subject. And remember your impact as a speaker is more powerful if you know what your audience is there to hear. Find a commonality that the audience has with each other and with you as the speaker. When you identify with the audience you become one of them and it is harder for them to dislike you and easier for you to impact them. Especially useful when you are bringing them thought-provoking or controversial ideas for the first time. Use powerful body language and vocal variety to deliver with confidence and authority.
How to inspire an audience
Invite your audience to ‘Imagine’. Tell them how ‘it’ could be. Paint a picture of a bright new world so the audience can visualise it. Let your words become pictures, sounds and feelings. Ensure an interactive experience that will leave them ‘feeling’ something. Use emotion to tell a story. Give examples from your own and others’ life and work.
Show your audience what is possible. Ask them ‘What are you capable of?’ Jim Harvey, MD of The Message Business says it’s the question every motivational speaker asks of their audience. He says, ‘It’s not difficult to inspire others, we just need to understand them, their dreams and the things that give them hope.’
In Martin Luther King Jr’s inspirational and emotive ‘I Have a Dream’ speech, King invites the audience to ‘dream’ with him. He tells them how it could be. He leaves them inspired to follow their own dreams and gives them hope for a better way.
Use visuals. ‘A picture is worth a thousand words’ the old adage goes. An image can tell a story but also, evoke memory and emotion. A powerful image will convey meaning and /or a feeling more effectively than words. This is because vision is our dominant sense and so we respond to images intuitively and emotionally.
So, whether you are on stage, on-camera or speaking in the Zoom room, writing a blog, or interacting with colleagues around the water cooler there is always the opportunity to influence, impact and inspire. But remember it’s always about them – your audience. As a presentation specialist and writer, Nancy Duarte says they are Luke Skywalker, and you are Yoda. May the force be with you.
For a more in-depth look at how to connect with your audience when speaking in public, download the free How To Impact, Influence and Inspire Your Audience PDF.
It will introduce you to the 3 Bs. Believe – Breathe – Be prepared.
3 simple but effective steps with information and exercises that will raise your confidence and prepare you for talking to your audience, be it for a sales call, a business presentation, or a keynote speech.