Sometimes a client has everything going for them as they prepare for a speech; they’ve thought about what they want to say, they’ve outlined their ideas in a clear and cogent way, they have an objective for the speech that they can articulate, they are excited to reach the audience with their message — they are prepared, but they are nervous. The client wants to make a good impression, and they know they need help but they aren’t sure what is wrong or what to do. So, they come in for a coaching session to rehearse the speech; and when they deliver the speech in rehearsal — it’s flat, uncompelling, and teeters on the verge of boring. Why does this happen?
Obviously, there are many reasons why this could be happening — but a common one is that the speaker has not connected in an emotional way to what they are saying. Their brain has done a great job getting ready for the speech, now it’s time for their heart to follow suit.
How do you get an emotional arc to a speech that is not emotional in nature? Generally in business you are conveying information, but an effective speech must do more than state facts. An effective and compelling speech guides the listener to a specific point of view, or action step, or feeling about the speaker and their ideas. For a speech to have dynamism and life, you must convey a passion for the subject and a genuine interest in your listener. To do that, you must think about the audience in a more specific way. In session with clients when we are rehearsing a speech, I often ask: When you finish speaking, how do you want your audience to feel? What do you want them to think? Say? Do? When you finish speaking how will they be different? First you answer these questions in an overall sense for the entire speech. And once you have an answer you go back and break the speech down into smaller chunks — smaller ideas within the larger one that you are trying to convey, and you ask those same questions again. By answering these questions the client begins to sense the life behind the carefully crafted words. And then you can begin to coax a vibrant and persuasive presentation out of the client.
Here is a small example:
Coach: When you finish speaking how do you want the audience to feel overall.
Client: I want them to feel secure that our company has their best interests at heart and can solve this problem for them.
Coach: Great — so you want them to feel???
Client: Happy that we are working for them.
Coach: OK — let’s look at the speech itself, you have three main ideas here, in the first one, you seem to be presenting a problem that could come up for the listener.
Client: That’s right, it’s a big potential problem that has large consequences.
Coach: And how do you want them to feel about the problem
Client: Worried, scared, alarmed.
Coach: Terrific, that’s a great active idea — you can scare them in the first part of the speech as you present this problem. In the second half of the speech you present a number of solutions that you can offer the listener. How do you want them to feel about that?
Client: Obviously I want them to feel happy that there is a solution.
Coach: Yes, good, so now in this section you can calm them down, reassure them, soothe them into not panicking. And in the third section you talk about how your firm can specifically tailor these solutions to their needs and give them the personal attention they want. Might I suggest you rally your listener here…. Let them know that not only is there a solution, but that you are the best person to solve it for them.
Client: so they will feel excited about us and our company’s work?
Client: I like that idea — that seems right for me.
Coach: So now let’s try the speech — Frighten your audience, then soothe them, then rally them to call you should anything go wrong.
Client: OK. Let’s try.
As we rehearse the speech again, the client begins to find their own voice, their own passion for the ideas they are conveying because they are focusing on the listener, they are actively pursuing a reaction from the listener and as a result, their voice and their physical being begin to communicate the excitement of the speech and the intelligence, organization, and the main points of the presentation become apparent.
A good speech is more than words on the page. Only when a speaker is truly engaged with, not only their own words but, the pursuit of a reaction from their listeners, only then will their authentic voice, their inner public speaking rock star begin to emerge.
– Melissa Flaim