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Speak like a Pro- 15 lessons learned from watching TED TALKS

Speak like a Pro- 15 lessons learned from watching TED TALKS

When you watch TED Talks, do you ever wonder how the speakers look so confident, say all the right things, and deliver such a strong message? There are very deliberate tactics to deliver speeches like this. As a member of Toastmasters International, I noticed that TED speakers follow a very specific set of rules. Here are 15 lessons learned from watching Ted Talks. Practice implementing them and you will deliver amazing speeches and speak like a pro in no time.

1. Start With A Bang! No Weak Beginnings Allowed.

Don’t start the presentation with a weak beginning. Don’t say things like “thank you for that introduction” or “it’s nice to be here..” Instead, give the audience something powerful that will get their attention immediately. Make sure you wow your audience in the first 30 seconds. When giving a 5-10 minute speech, 30 seconds is a very long time! Introduce your topic in a unique way and make sure to know who your audience is, what will impress and intrigue them. Remember, you have 30 seconds to begin your speech, impress, and also let them know what your speech is about. The first few sentences must be very carefully constructed.

2. Organize Your Ideas: Your Speech Must Have A Structure.

Professional speakers know that one of the key ways to keep their audience engaged is to have a clear structure for their speeches. Develop an outline for your speech- even before writing the speech out. You can organize your speech structure in several ways, including chronologically, thematically, or topically. Here are some of Leo Babuata’s lifehack.org tips for writing a kickass speech.

Don’t take this advice for granted. Organizing your ideas into an outline will improve the quality of your speech and help you create a coherent message that comes together neatly. If you don’t this is beforehand, it could result in a very chaotic speech. Speech audiences need structure in order to enjoy a speech. When you’re listening to a speech, you may not recognize the structure, but it affects your experience. Once you’re an experienced speaker yourself, you will begin to notice that every good speech has a clear structure.

3. Realize That Pauses Are… VERY Powerful.

The four pillars of vocal variety in the Toastmaster’s guide are Pace, Pitch, Power and Pauses. Pauses are by far the most dramatic of the four, so you need to learn how to use them wisely. Pauses can be varied and used throughout different sections of the speech. Short pauses are necessary between sentences, and you need to deliberately pause, because if you don’t it will sound like your sentences are connected, confusing and too rushed.

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Long pauses can be used between the different sections of the speech where you are transitioning from one idea to the next. The longest pauses should be used sparingly, when you want to emphasize the most important points and you want to gather up the audiences’ attention before stating them. In terms of pace, slowing down through key statements will do wonders to emphasize them.

4. Get To The Point- And Stay On Target.

State the goal, main idea, or main questions being explored early on, and stay on target with this main topic. Make sure every part of your speech is on target. It may seem repetitive to you, but an audience of a speech does not retain information very well (only impressions and impact of the message). This means you need to repeat your main message in several different ways if you want the audience to take that message with them after the speech is over. Even if your speech has several sections with different information, it should always tie back to the main message and stay on target.

5. Use Simple Words: Think Conversational.

The best, most inspiring speeches use simple words and have a conversational tone. Forget jargon, and forget complicated, long sentences. Keep your sentences succinct, and your words short. Avoid crutch words. This will make your speech more believable, and you as the speaker more likable. Gaining the audience’s trust in this way is key to connecting with them.

“Effective delivery, even to a large audience, is intimate. Your delivery should be conversational.” –John Kinde, DTM and Loren Ekroth, Ph.D, Toastmasters Magazine.

6. Use Body Language Effectively: Complement Your Words For Maximum Impact.

Remember to use the correct body language for the desired effect, and don’t pace around aimlessly on the stage. When you’re nervous on stage, you might make gestures without realizing it, and most of these types of gestures and stances take away from the power of your speech. Some of these include pacing back and forth nervously, fidgeting with your hands, crossing your arms and uncrossing them repeatedly, and more.

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When people begin to notice these movements, they generally zone out of your speech and begin focusing on the movements. This is because people tend to mirror your attitude during speeches. When they can clearly see your nervousness through your body language, they will also begin to feel restless and nervous themselves. You need to practice controlling your body language, and incorporating useful gestures instead. Useful gestures are expressive, curated movements that clearly coincide with the idea you are delivering in that moment.

7. Don’t Overwhelm: No More Than 3 Takeaways.

That’s probably already too many! Try to focus on one clear message with a couple of supporting points. The best speeches teach the audience something new, or allow them to see a topic in a whole new light. Make your message memorable. Speeches are one of the most “inefficient” forms of learning because the listener does not retain a high number of specific facts. However, in terms of impact, a speech can go very far. The impact of your speech will depend on the clarity of the message, repetition of the message, and the unique angle of your message.

8. Use Vocal Variety- Add Life And Color To Your Speech.

Your voice is the medium and tool for delivering your speech. It has a major effect on your listeners. You should focus on making your speaking voice lively, enthusiastic, pleasant, natural, and powerful at certain moments. This can all be achieved through practice. You need to add a variety of different volumes, pitches and tones to make your speech engaging and fun to listen to.

What do you think makes for a good storyteller? It’s the vocal variety- the ability to enunciate words, use power and high volume in some moments, and sometimes even speaking in a whisper. A speech won’t have such a contrast but this is the basic idea. You need to tell a story with your voice as much as your words.

Don’t over-strain your voice in the days leading up to the speech, such as yelling, going to a Karaoke bar, or cheering loudly at a baseball game. It will most definitely affect the quality of your delivery. On the day of the speech, make sure to rest your voice, and have a glass of water before starting.

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9. Back Up Your Arguments With The Right Evidence.

Most of your compelling arguments need some kind of evidence to support it. A speech that is well-researched demands credibility. This is not to say that your speech should be heavily fact and statistics oriented, because this would make for a very boring speech. However, emphasizing your top arguments with the right backup can really increase the impact of your speech. You can research your speech topic using books and the internet. Make sure to mention where you got the info to make your speech more persuasive. Sometimes, depending on the topic, you can use a simple chart, graph or quote to provide even more visual context.

10. Get Comfortable With Your Visual Aids.

If your speech includes the use of presentation slides, make sure you know them well. You need to be really comfortable with using them, in every aspect. They must be appropriate for your speech and displayed professionally, and be easy to read or see. You should know how to use the technical equipment where you are giving your speech, and you should not turn away from the audience to read the slides. As a matter of fact, the slides should not contain too many words. The most effective speeches use lots of visuals, or simple quotes or points displayed in a really big font size.

11. Know Your Audience, And Don’t Forget To Inspire Them Deeply.

If possible, you should find out who your audience members are by researching the event, venue or topic of your speech in this respect. If you know a little bit more about them, your message can be catered to impact them more deeply. If you know what makes your audience tick, and what issues they care deeply about, you have the ability to inject them with inspiration and make them reflect on something important.

Even if you can’t find out the exact type of audience you will speak to, it’s important to remember to think about inspiring your audience while you write your speech. You are not there to merely present facts and leave. In most cases, speeches (oddly similar to certain sermons) aim to make the audience self reflect and take action on something in their lives. This is a beautiful thing if you can manage to accomplish this. Aim high!

12. Tell A Story. Or Two… And Use Stories About People.

People love to listen to stories. Stories and anecdotes are much more memorable than statements that are disconnected. A good story can weave together some really good points and usually ends with a clear lesson which is easy to remember. In order to connect with the audience, make sure you use your own stories and tell them in an authentic manner.

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Don’t borrow other people’s stories- reflect on your own experiences and find stories that illustrate your most profound thoughts. This will do wonders in making the audience trust you. Here’s my favorite TED speech which incorporates personal stories into the speech seamlessly. It’s Amanda Palmer’s The Art of Asking. In this speech, she pretty much incorporates everything I’ve laid out in this post very successfully!

13. Use Humor: Make Your Audience Smile Or Laugh As Soon As Possible.

One of the easiest ways to get the audience on your side is by making them laugh early on. If you tell them a story that makes them smile or even laugh out loud, you’ve already won over their approval and trust, and their smiles looking in your direction will give you more confidence to power through the rest of the speech.

Professionals know this, and use this method very strategically! Next time you’re listening to a good speech, remember this turning point in the speech, and take note of how good it made to feel when the speaker made you laugh.

14. Practice Your Speech! This Is An Absolute Must.

Practicing gives you the ability to feel out your speech, work out inconsistencies, and fix your timing. When practicing a speech in front of a mirror or in front of a supportive group of people, it is recommended to use time limits. Make eye contact with specific people in different sections of the audience, and connect directly with them. This takes some practice to get it right and look natural.

Practicing also allows you to hone in on your best gestures, body language, facial expressions, and experiment with variations of pitch and emphasis in your voice. It’s also important because it helps you remember your points better each time. No one wants to see a speaker who is reading. Follow these tips while practicing.

15. Give Them Goosebumps: End Strong With A Compelling Call To Action.

It’s always a good idea to end strong, and come full circle with your message. Just as a good essay has a strong introduction and strong conclusion, so does a good speech. The conclusion should repeat the main points from the introduction but in a summarized, concluded format, and introduce a compelling “call to action,” which can be something for the audience to think about or act upon.

Don’t end your speech with a question and answer session. Even if your speech will have a Q&A session, take the stage back after the session and end strong with a summarized conclusion.

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Last Updated on May 21, 2019

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

How to Communicate Effectively in Any Relationship

For all our social media bravado, we live in a society where communication is seen less as an art, and more as a perfunctory exercise. We spend so much time with people, yet we struggle with how to meaningfully communicate.

If you believe you have mastered effective communication, scan the list below and see whether you can see yourself in any of the examples:

Example 1

You are uncomfortable with a person’s actions or comments, and rather than telling the individual immediately, you sidestep the issue and attempt to move on as though the offending behavior or comment never happened.

You move on with the relationship and develop a pattern of not addressing challenging situations. Before long, the person with whom you are in relationship will say or do something that pushes you over the top and predictably, you explode or withdraw completely from the relationship.

In this example, hard-to-speak truths become never- expressed truths that turn into resentment and anger.

Example 2

You communicate from the head and without emotion. While what you communicate makes perfect sense to you, it comes across as cold because it lacks emotion.

People do not understand what motivates you to say what you say, and without sharing your feelings and emotions, others experience you as rude, cold or aggressive.

You will know this is a problem if people shy away from you, ignore your contributions in meetings or tell you your words hurt. You can also know you struggle in this area if you find yourself constantly apologizing for things you have said.

Example 3

You have an issue with one person, but you communicate your problem to an entirely different person.

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The person in whom you confide lacks the authority to resolve the matter troubling you, and while you have vented and expressed frustration, the underlying challenge is unresolved.

Example 4

You grew up in a family with destructive communication habits and those habits play out in your current relationships.

Because you have never stopped to ask why you communicate the way you do and whether your communication style still works, you may lack understanding of how your words impact others and how to implement positive change.

If you find yourself in any of the situations described above, this article is for you.

Communication can build or decimate worlds and it is important we get it right. Regardless of your professional aspirations or personal goals, you can improve your communication skills if you:

  • Understand your own communication style
  • Tailor your style depending on the needs of the audience
  • Communicate with precision and care
  • Be mindful of your delivery, timing and messenger

1. Understand Your Communication Style

To communicate effectively, you must understand the communication legacy passed down from our parents, grandparents or caregivers. Each of us grew up with spoken and unspoken rules about communication.

In some families, direct communication is practiced and honored. In other families, family members are encouraged to shy away from difficult conversations. Some families appreciate open and frank dialogue and others do not. Other families practice silence about substantive matters, that is, they seldom or rarely broach difficult conversations at all.

Before you can appreciate the nuance required in communication, it helps to know the familial patterns you grew up with.

2. Learn Others Communication Styles

Communicating effectively requires you to take a step back, assess the intended recipient of your communication and think through how the individual prefers to be communicated with. Once you know this, you can tailor your message in a way that increases the likelihood of being heard. This also prevents you from assuming the way you communicate with one group is appropriate or right for all groups or people.

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If you are unsure how to determine the styles of the groups or persons with whom you are interacting, you can always ask them:

“How do you prefer to receive information?”

This approach requires listening, both to what the individuals say as well as what is unspoken. Virgin Group CEO Richard Branson noted that the best communicators are also great listeners.

To communicate effectively from relationship to relationship and situation to situation, you must understand the communication needs of others.

3. Exercise Precision and Care

A recent engagement underscored for me the importance of exercising care when communicating.

On a recent trip to Ohio, I decided to meet up with an old friend to go for a walk. As we strolled through the soccer park, my friend gently announced that he had something to talk about, he was upset with me. His introduction to the problem allowed me to mentally shift gears and prepare for the conversation.

Shortly after introducing the shift in conversation, my friend asked me why I didn’t invite him to the launch party for my business. He lives in Ohio and I live in the D.C. area.

I explained that the event snuck up on me, and I only started planning the invite list three weeks before the event. Due to the last-minute nature of the gathering, I opted to invite people in the DMV area versus my friends from outside the area – I didn’t want to be disrespectful by asking them to travel on such short notice.

I also noted that I didn’t want to be disappointed if he and others declined to come to the event. So I played it safe in terms of inviting people who were local.

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In the moment, I felt the conversation went very well. I also checked in with my friend a few days after our walk, affirmed my appreciation for his willingness to communicate his upset and our ability to work through it.

The way this conversation unfolded exemplified effective communication. My friend approached me with grace and vulnerability. He approached me with a level of curiosity that didn’t put me on my heels — I was able to really listen to what he was saying, apologize for how my decision impacted him and vow that going forward, I would always ask rather than making decisions for him and others.

Our relationship is intact, and I now have information that will help me become a better friend to him and others.

4. Be Mindful of Delivery, Timing and Messenger

Communicating effectively also requires thinking through the delivery of the message one intends to communicate as well as the appropriate time for the discussion.

In an Entrepreneur.com column, VIP Contributor Deep Patel, noted that persons interested in communicating well need to master the art of timing. Patel noted,[1]

“Great comedians, like all great communicators, are able to feel out their audience to determine when to move on to a new topic or when to reiterate an idea.”

Communicating effectively also requires thoughtfulness about the messenger. A person prone to dramatic, angry outbursts should never be called upon to deliver constructive feedback, especially to people whom they do not know. The immediate aftermath of a mass shooting is not the ideal time to talk about the importance of the Second Amendment rights.

Like everyone else, I must work to ensure my communication is layered with precision and care.

It requires precision because words must be carefully tailored to the person with whom you are speaking.

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It requires intentionality because before one communicates, one should think about the audience and what the audience needs in order to hear your message the way you intended it to be communicated.

It requires active listening which is about hearing verbal and nonverbal messages.

Even though we may be right in what we say, how we say it could derail the impact of the message and the other parties’ ability to hear the message.

Communicating with care is also about saying things that the people in our life need to hear and doing so with love.

The Bottom Line

When I left the meeting with my dear friend, I wondered if I was replicating or modeling this level of openness and transparency in the rest of my relationships.

I was intrigued and appreciative. He’d clearly thought about what he wanted to say to me, picked the appropriate time to share his feedback and then delivered it with care. He hit the ball out of the park and I’m hopeful we all do the same.

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Featured photo credit: Kenan Buhic via unsplash.com

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