At Allidura, training and professional development is critical – we are always looking for ways to hone our craft as a team. Recently, we started a “team library,” collecting, reading, learning and sharing the old fashioned way – not via apps, tablets or e-readers, but actual books… remember those?!
To kick off 2016, I’ve selected a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Carmine Gallo’s Talk like Ted, where best practices from hundreds of successful TED Talks are shared and analyzed. As PR professionals, we are often called upon to speak up in group settings – big or small – in front of our colleagues, peers and clients. Public speaking is an ability that is put to the test nearly every day and yet, there’s little industry-wide emphasis on the need to continuously hone and refine this skill. I won’t go through all of the ‘secrets’ mentioned in the book, but below are some of my key takeaways that could benefit my fellow PR pros:
Passion & Pathos
A good speech, one that captures your audience’s interest and successfully persuades them of your point, requires passion and pathos. Passion is a strong, contagious emotion that helps translate your story to the audience in the most compelling way because it demonstrates you are personally involved and invested. One way to infuse passion into an otherwise mundane topic is to tell a personal story. Even if it remotely touches on the topic, it opens up a friendly atmosphere and captures the attention of your audience. Greek philosopher Aristotle believed persuasion happens when there’s ethos (credibility), logos (logic, data) and pathos (appealing to emotions). When analyzing the words in the speech of one of the most highly rated Ted Talks (Bryan Stevenson, 2012), Gallo found 65% of the words were assigned the “ethos” category. The bottom line is to appeal to the human side of public speaking. Take a closer look at your content – be sure to add in stories, anecdotes and personal insights, along with hard and fast data.
As Sesame Street Says… Just Be Yourself
Never forget there are people on the receiving end of your speech or presentation. The best way to connect with your audience is to speak in a natural, authentic way. The most well-received Ted Talks come from speakers who sound like they are “just shooting the breeze” with the audience. Of course, that is not to say you don’t have to be professional – but there are still ways to convey authenticity and openness. One thing to try is to open up the conversation and ask your audience questions, engaging them in your presentation. Pause to inquire about their thoughts and gather their feedback. You can also watch the rate and volume of your voice – avoid being monotone and fluctuate between the pitch of your voice and how fast you are speaking. You’re not reading off a checklist for groceries, you’re telling a story!
Don’t Go into Overtime; Use Your Time Outs
There are a few schools of thought on the topic of how long a presentation should be – 18 minutes? 7 minutes? 5 minutes? At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember is that attention spans are scientifically proven to be short; and listening or absorbing information is actually quite taxing for the brain to sustain for long periods of time. If you have a long presentation or an extensive story, whenever possible, give your audience a break or break up the presentation with exercises or discussions. This will help to retain their interest and give their minds a well-deserved break.