Using stories in speeches comes natural to many of us. It’s a fun way to illustrate a point in layman’s terms, helps you develop rapport with your audience and makes you human in the audience’s eyes. Stories make great icebreakers, good jokes and get people to think. So should you load up your speech with stories and call it day? Not so fast — keep in mind that in the world of public speaking, “too much of a good thing” is a reality that many speakers experience.
Earlier today an official in Texas took offense to someone using the term “black hole” to describe something negative. Later on, this same official also took offense to the fact that that Angel Food Cake (which the term “angel” has a positive connation) is white and Devil’s Food Cake (“Devil” having a negative connotation) is brown. I’m pretty sure based on the context that the phrase “black hole” was used (he was describing a local government office as place where things go in and never come back out) that the speaker wasn’t making a racist remark. However, whether we like it or not, as speakers and communicators, we may from time to time say something that is perceived in a completely different light than what we intended.
I’ve met a number of writers in recent months that have asked me how hard it is to transition their writing to speeches. I was surprised because it’s almost like there’s this perception that being a good speaker and a good writer are mutually exclusive. They think of it like baseball – where good pitchers are rarely good hitters in the major leagues because they focus on one particular skill. So I explain that it’s the complete opposite — writers can make great speakers because the skills necessary to be successful in both endeavors are very similar.
Conservative icon and talk radio host Rush Limbaugh recently signed an eight year deal for $400 million. Who says you can’t make money speaking? Each day, an estimated 15 million people tune their radios to Rush’s syndicated talk show — talk about a large audience. Whether you love him or hate him, those of us aspiring to become great communicators can learn a lot from Rush Limbaugh (and other talk radio hosts). Here are four lessons that will help you regardless of your political leanings:
Lesson 1: People don’t have to agree with you to listen to you.
If you’re interested in public speaking, then Rich Hopkins is someone to watch. Rich has been involved with Toastmasters International for over seven years, started his own speaking business and will be competing in the World Championship of Public Speaking for the second time next month – Rich placed 3rd in the world in 2006.
If the mere thought of having to give a speech makes you cringe, chances are that you’re not terribly enthusiastic when it’s time to prepare. However, even the most eager presenters can find themselves overwhelmed when getting ready for their big talk. Regardless of where you fall in, it’s important to not fall into some of the common traps that people are prone to when it’s time to prepare a speech. So here are three of the most common, yet avoidable, mistakes that you should watch out for when preparing your speech:
Mistake 1: Waiting until the last possible minute to prepare:
Although the only way to truly overcome your fear of public speaking is to get up and speak, there are some things you can do right now to improve your public speaking skills. Half of the battle is to simply be aware that public speaking is an art form and there is much to it than simply standing up in front of a crowd and speaking. You need to develop a trained eye (and ear) — which is relatively easy to do (think about when your shopping for a new car, you tend to notice more of the cars your interested in on the road).