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12 Things You Can Do To Deliver An Award-Winning Speech

12 Things You Can Do To Deliver An Award-Winning Speech

You could be called on to deliver a speech for a number of reasons: a wedding, a work function, a pitch for your startup, but whatever the occasion, you want that speech to blow the audience away. Based on my experience teaching public speaking at Carnegie Mellon University, here are 12 things you can do to give an award-winning speech.

1. Tell a Story

Unless you’re getting a masters in statistics, you probably don’t get all hot and bothered when someone starts quoting numbers to you. When we’re putting speeches together, we naturally think to include as many facts and details as possible, but most of the time, the audience doesn’t care that much about the specifics.

If you want to be memorable and keep your audience’s attention, you need to tell a story. That means having a quick introduction, including some rising action and suspense to a climax, and diminishing action to a resolution. You want to take them on a journey with you as you’re speaking to be truly captivating.

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2. Suit Up

Okay, it doesn’t have to be a suit. But you need to look good. People will naturally take you more seriously and believe you more if you’re well dress and present yourself as being very put together, so it’s important to consider how you appear to the audience. As much as 70% of communication is nonverbal, so as much as you want your words to be spot on, you need to look the part as well.

3. Know Your Audience

You wouldn’t say the same things to a group of entrepreneurial college students and to a group of 50–70 year old veteran lawyers. It’s necessary to know who you’ll be speaking to and what their interests are. You want your story to appeal to what they care about; don’t just assume they’ll just be interested and pay attention to you because you’re speaking. You have to empathize and connect with them.

4. Practice, Practice, Practice

Very few people can wing a speech and do it well. Just ask Michael Bay. If you want to really blow your audience away, you need to make sure you have your speech down cold. This means not only practicing it a few times, but practicing it in a few different locations as well (to decrease the influence of locational cues) and ideally having some distractions in the environment. Also, be sure you can get through it without slides (if you’re using any) just in case something goes terribly wrong.

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5. Test Your Setup

Tech can, and will, fail on you. You never know when you’ll get to a presentation and the projector won’t work with your computer, or you’ll have sent the wrong format presentation, or any number of other errors. The only way to avoid this is to show up early and make sure that everything you’ll be depending on works.

That covers some of the main things you should think about before the speech; now here’s what to be sure of during it.

6. … Pause

Pausing does three things for your speech. First, it adds dramatic effect. A pause leaves people hanging as they wait for what you’re going to say next. Second, it makes you sound more intelligent and thoughtful. And third, it helps you avoid using filler words like “uh” and “um,” which we most frequently use while we think of what to say next. A pause fills the same function.

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7. Articulate

When we have day-to-day conversations, we generally speak in a faster more relaxed way. We slur some of our words, use shortcuts, and keep it casual. This doesn’t work in giving a speech though—if you want to be heard and understood, you need to speak clearly and articulate your words more than you would normally. This means speaking a bit slower, making sure you don’t trail off at the ends of sentences, and watching the audience to see if anyone looks like they can’t understand you.

8. Keep Eye Contact

This is the best way to connect with each individual person in the audience. It doesn’t have to be for longer than a couple seconds, but if you make an effort to make eye contact with as many people as possible, it will help them feel much more engaged with you as a speaker. If you never make eye contact with them, they’ll be much less involved in the speech, so definitely don’t look at the back wall or just look at their foreheads. It has to be real eye contact.

9. Stay Facing Forwards

Just because everyone else is looking at your PowerPoint doesn’t mean that you have to as well. The minute you turn around and start talking toward your slides, you tell the audience to stop looking at you and just read off of the screen for themselves. It also tells them you didn’t prepare for the speech, so avoid looking at your slides as much as possible.

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10. Use Your Hands

Many people don’t know what to do with their hands while speaking, because we normally don’t need to think about it in day-to-day conversation. This results in ridiculous hand waving, wringing, hiding them in your pockets, and all sorts of other bad stuff. You never want to do anything unintentional with your hands—you want them to do intentional gestures that back up what you’re saying. Practice making effective gestures until you have a repertoire you can use to enhance your speech.

11. Project

Obviously your speech won’t be memorable if no one can hear you. Getting projection right is largely a result of practice, but you can also gauge the audience to figure out how you’re doing. If the people in the back are leaning forward they are probably having a hard time hearing you, and if the people in the front look terrified you’re probably yelling at them. Adjust accordingly.

12. Show Confidence

Finally, your audience will base a lot of their beliefs about the strength of your speech on their impressions of your strength as a person. If you appear confident and sure of yourself, they’ll believe what you’re saying and believe it’s a good speech. If you’re slouched, covering your chest, shuffling back and forth, and not making eye contact, they will pick up on it and you’ll lose their interest. Be sure to project confidence in not only your speaking, but your body language.

If you can incorporate these 12 things into your preparation and speeches, I’m confident that you can reliably give an award-winning speech.

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Nat Eliason

Writer and Host of Nat Chat

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Last Updated on April 6, 2020

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

10 Powerful Ways to Influence People Positively

Most discussions on positively influencing others eventually touch on Dale Carnegie’s seminal work, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Written more than 83 years ago, the book touches on a core component of human interaction, building strong relationships. It is no wonder why.

Everything that we do hinges on our ability to connect with others and formulate deep relationships. You cannot sell a house, buy a house, advance in most careers, sell a product, pitch a story, teach a course, etc. without building healthy relationships. Managers get the best results from their teams, not through brute force, but to careful appeals to their sensibilities, occasional withdrawals from the reservoir of respect they’ve built. Using these tactics, they can influence others to excellence, to productivity, and to success.

Carnegie’s book is great. Of course, there are other resources too. Most of us have someone in our lives who positively influences us. The truth is positively influencing people is about centering the humanity of others. Chances are, you know someone who is really good at making others feel like stars. They can get you to do things that the average person cannot. Where the requests of others sound like fingernails on a chalkboard, the request from this special person sounds like music to your ears. You’re delighted to not only listen but also to oblige.

So how to influence people in a positive way? Read on for tips.

1. Be Authentic

To influence people in a positive way, be authentic. Rather than being a carbon copy of someone else’s version of authenticity, uncover what it is that makes you unique.

Discover your unique take on an issue and then live up to and honor that. Once of the reasons social media influencers are so powerful is that they have carved out a niche for themselves or taken a common issue and approached it from a novel or uncommon way. People instinctually appreciate people whose public persona matches their private values.

Contradictions bother us because we crave stability. When someone professes to be one way, but lives contrary to that profession, it signals that they are confused or untrustworthy and thereby, inauthentic. Neither of these combinations bode well for positively influencing others.

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2. Listen

Growing up, my father would tell me to listen to what others said. He told me if I listened carefully, I would know all I needed to know about a person’s character, desires and needs.

To positively influence others, you must listen to what is spoken and what is left unsaid. Therein lies the explanation for what people need in order to feel validated, supported and seen. If a person feels they are invisible, and unseen by their superiors, they are less likely to be positively influenced by that person.

Listening meets a person’s primary need of validation and acceptance.

Take a look at this guide on how to be a better listener: How to Practice Active Listening (A Step-By-Step Guide)

3. Become an Expert

Most people are predisposed to listen to, if not respect, authority. If you want to positively influence others, become an authority in the area in which you seek to lead others. Research and read everything you can about the given topic, and then look for opportunities to put your education into practice.

You can argue over opinions. You cannot argue, or it is unwise to argue, over facts and experts come with facts.

4. Lead with Story

From years of working in the public relations space, I know that personal narratives, testimonials and impact stories are incredibly powerful. But I never cease to be amazed with how effective a well-timed and told story can be.

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If you want to influence people, learn to tell stories. Your stories should be related to the issue or concept you are discussing. They should be an analogy or metaphor that explains your topic in ordinary terms and in vivid detail. To learn more about how to tell powerful stories, and the ethics of storytelling, take a look at this article: How To Tell An Interesting Story In 4 Simple Steps

5. Lead by Example

It is incredibly inspiring to watch passionate, talented people at work or play. One of the reasons a person who is not an athlete can be in awe of athletic prowess is because human nature appreciates the extraordinary. When we watch the Olympics, Olympic trials, gymnastic competitions, ice skating, and other competitive sports, we can recognize the effort of people who day in and day out give their all. C

ase in point: Simone Biles. The gymnast extraordinaire won her 6TH all-around title at the U.S. Gymnastics Championships after doing a triple double. She was the first woman to do so. Watching her gave me chills. Even non-gymnasts and non-competitive athletes can appreciate the talent required to pull off such a remarkable feat.

We celebrate remarkable accomplishments and believe that their example is proof that we too can accomplish something great, even if it isn’t qualifying for the Olympics. To influence people in a positive way, we must lead by example, lead with intention and execute with excellence.

6. Catch People Doing Good

A powerful way to influence people in a positive way is to catch people doing good. Instead of looking for problems, look for successes. Look for often overlooked, but critically important things that your peers, subordinates and managers do that make the work more effective and more enjoyable.

Once you catch people doing good, name and notice their contributions.

7. Be Effusive with Praise

It did not take me long to notice a remarkable trait of a former boss. He not only began and ended meetings with praise, but he peppered praise throughout the entire meeting. He found a way to celebrate the unique attributes and skills of his team members. He was able to quickly and accurately assess what people were doing well and then let them and their colleagues know.

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Meetings were not just an occasion to go through a “To Do” list, they were opportunities to celebrate accomplishments, no matter how small they are.

8. Be Kind Rather Than Right

I am going to level with you; this one is tough. It is easy to get caught up in a cycle of proving oneself. For people who lack confidence, or people who prioritize the opinions of others, being right is important. The validation that comes with being perceived as “right” feeds one’s ego. But in the quest to be “right,” we can hurt other people. Once we’ve hurt someone by being unkind, it is much harder to get them to listen to what we’re trying to influence them to do.

The antidote to influencing others via bullying is to prioritize kindness above rightness. You can be kind and still stand firm in your position. For instance, many people think that they need others to validate their experience. If a person does not see the situation you experienced in the way you see it, you get upset. But your experience is your experience.

If you and your friends go out to eat and you get food poisoning, you do not need your friends to agree that the food served at the restaurant was problematic for you. Your own experience of getting food poisoning is all the validation you need. Therefore, taking time to be right is essentially wasted and, if you were unkind in seeking validation for your food-poison experience, now you’ve really lost points.

9. Understand a Person’s Logical, Emotional and Cooperative Needs

The Center for Creative Leadership has argued that the best way to influence others is to appeal to their logical, emotional and cooperative needs. Their logical need is their rational and educational need. Their emotional need is the information that touches them in a deeply personal manner. The cooperative need is understanding the level of cooperation various individuals need and then appropriately offering it.

The trick with this system is to understand that different people need different things. For some people, a strong emotional appeal will outweigh logical explanations. For others, having an opportunity to collaborate will override emotional connection.

If you know your audience, you will know what they need in order to be positively influenced. If you have limited information about the people whom you are attempting to influence, you will be ineffective.

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10. Understand Your Lane

If you want to positively influence others, operate from your sphere of influence. Operate from your place of expertise. Leave everything else to others. Gone are the days when being a jack of all trades is celebrated.

Most people appreciate brands that understand their target audience and then deliver on what that audience wants. When you focus on what you are uniquely gifted and qualified to do, and then offer that gift to the people who need it, you are likely more effective. This effectiveness is attractive.

You cannot positively influence others if you are more preoccupied by what others do well versus what you do well.

Final Thoughts

Influencing people is about centering your humanity. If you want to influence others positively, focus on the way you communicate and improve the relationship with yourself first.

It’s hard to influence others if you’re still trying to figure out how to communicate with yourself.

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Featured photo credit: Wonderlane via unsplash.com

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