If you’ve read much here, you know I think one of the most important aspects of speaking, if not the important aspect, is the unique bit you bring to it. Since it’s so easy to look information up these days, a speech can’t just be a convenient way to share information–there are too many more convenient ways. The unique point of view, the unique experiences, or at the least the curation you perform–those are the factors that serve to make a speech worthwhile to an audience, offered in the context of a unique connection with them.
I’ve made the point elsewhere, but it’s worth repeating: speeches aren’t a way to save money on paper and postage. In fact, they cost quite a bit in collective hours. It would be far cheaper to simply distribute copies of a manuscript if the main purpose of getting together to hear a speaker were simply to hear the words.
In fact, there is something about being in a live audience with a live speaker that makes it worthwhile for people to go to the trouble and expense of gathering rather than simply listening to a video.
There is a simple, two-step process that will lead you to your topic. Simple, but not easy.
Start with your interests
All communication is audience centered. But it serves the audience best when you start with your interests.
- You enthusiasm will come easily and be genuine. No need to fake it.
- Your research will be more efficient. You’ll already know a lot of what you need to say, and you just need to take the time to verify it. (Take that time. Memory is fallible.)
- Your stage fright will easily turn to delivery energy, since you’ll soon forget about yourself.
- You are most likely to engage the audience. If you speak about something they already know a lot about, you won’t bore them as long as you bring your interest to the topic. They will find the return to “Beginner’s Mind” refreshing. (If you’re not interested in something they are, they will soon figure it out, and resent your condescension.)
Tie in audience’s interest
You can’t just talk about your interests and ignore the audience, though. Start with your interests, but quickly tie it to theirs.
You may be enthusiastic about accounting. Good! I’m glad somebody is! But your audience won’t want to know all the details of your accounting system (unless they are accountants too).
But if you take your enthusiasm and knowledge of accounting, and then look at it from the standpoint of your audience, you’ll identify a way to approach the topic that will be interesting and useful to them.
Remember, you are not there for you; you are there for them.