If you want to put your audience to sleep then go through the typical motions of putting together a speech without thinking much about why you’re there and who you’re speaking to. If you want breathe life into your audience and capture their attention, then you need to add one critical ingredient to your talk – passion.
No, not that kind of passion – the passion I’m talking about is an excited interest in what you’re talking about. Passion and excitement are contagious – just try it out in everyday conversations. When you add it to your speeches, it has a similar effect on your audience. If you’re excited, some of the people will become excited and start paying closer attention to you. Then, almost like a virus, that excitement and interest spreads to the other people in the audience. As people starting paying close attention to you, the people sitting around them subconsciously think to themselves “hmm. if that person is listening, maybe I should as well.” So as more and more people in the audience notice the people around them paying close attention, the effect spreads until it reaches most (if not all) members of the audience.
Keep in mind that the audience has to be somewhat interested in or able to relate to what you’re talking about for this to work. If they don’t understand your jargon, disagree with your message or are simply not interested in your topic, you’ll have a tougher sell.
So how do you speak with passion? You need to develop a real interest in your topic. If you’ve had a loved one suffer from an ailment and were given the chance to speak to increase awareness in prevention of that ailment, you could easily speak with passion on that topic. The reason is that you believe that what you’re saying is important and can help your audience. The most effective salespeople believe deep down that what they’re selling will help their prospect. You need to believe that whatever you’re speaking about will help your audience.
Now what if you’re not really interested in your topic? Well you really have only two choices. The first is that you can become interested in your topic by learning more about it and finding some aspect of it that you can relate to. Once you find one area that you’re interested in, you’ll be motivated to learn and start learning more interesting facts about your topic. It’s like when you form an opinion on an issue – you start seeing evidence all over the place that supports your opinion. You can also get excited about the idea of teaching your audience or sharing your knowledge.
If you can’t find something about your topic that you’re interested in, then you’re other option is to choose another topic that you are interested in. Depending on your situation, you may not be able to veer too far from a particular topic. If that’s the case, then you need to tie the topic into another topic that you’re actually interested in. Many effective speakers can use analogies to sports or activities they enjoy to get excited about a topic. So if you love golf but hate public speaking, you could give a speech on “How Public Speaking is like golf” and focus on the aspects of golf and tie them into public speaking. You’ll really be giving a speech about golf, but you’ll tie each point into an aspect of public speaking.
As audience members, we like listening to speakers that are interested and excited about their topics. So if you want to be good speaker, look at it from the audience’s viewpoint – what are they hoping to get out of your talk? This simple exercise will make your presentations exponentially more effective.