Someone recently asked me, “What are your ‘Top 10’ lists of advice for those who are already very good speakers and wanted to be better and/or those who are just starting out?” Here's what I wrote.
1. GET STAGE TIME.
It doesn't matter whether it's a community centre or a boardroom or a mirror, get out, get up and do it. And then do it again. And then do it again. Eventually, you'll find your flawless voice. Great speeches don't just happen. They develop. Pan for silver, work for gold.
2. STAND FOR SOMETHING.
Don't just curate content, put your editorial spin on it. They don't have to agree with you but they do need to know what you believe. Don't be wishy-washy. Take a stand. Just remember to back it up.
3. BE YOURSELF.
Sick of hearing this one? You shouldn't be. It's true. They're not buying your talk, they're buying you. And to do THAT, they have to trust you, respect you, and like you. That rarely happens when you're trying to be something you're not.
4. BE A PRO.
Be on time. Be respectful of the crew. Be pleasant to deal with. Contrary to popular belief, you're not the most important one in the room. The audience is. (And after them, it's the muffins)
5. BE FUNNY
Humour gets their guard down and helps them open to seeing different perspectives. If they can see the humorous perspective on the material, chances are they'll be able to see the strategic perspective, too. You don't need to be Seinfeld but you should be able to deliver a smile or two.
6. PUT AS MANY VARIABLES IN YOUR FAVOUR AS POSSIBLE.
Don't speak until lunch dishes are cleared. Don't send your slides in advance. Don't do golf tournaments. Don't wear a mic that makes you uncomfortable. There's enough that can go wrong without you having to compete with elements of distraction. Don't be a diva but don't get into anything that has FAILURE written all over it, either. Find out what you need to be your best and ask for it.
7. REMEMBER, THERE ARE NO RULES.
You don't have to use slides. You don't have to stand on stage. You don't have to have interaction. You don't have to use stories. You don't have to do anything except deliver an amazing speech. Great speeches follow the rules of great speeches. Brilliant speeches write their own. It's your stage. Do what you want as long as it works.
8. BE A ROCK STAR.
The live, face-to-face speech is still one of the things that people will pay a premium for because while Youtube clips are great for research, digital can't duplicate the power of genuine human interaction. Some bands know how to be great musicians. Successful bands know the power of seeing someone live. Act accordingly. Be a rock star.
9. THROW IN SOME FREEBIES.
Not everyone can afford a top notch speaker but that doesn't mean they shouldn't have access to the thinking. Whether it's not for profit organizations or schools or just people you know and like, remember to donate some of your time to those who can't necessarily afford it. Trust me, it'll come back (although that's not why you should do it).
10. HAVE FUN!
My grandfather was a cobbler for 65 years in a 1 room shop. And now I get to do this?? That's ridiculous. Amid the flying and the hotels and the client demands and the hassles of just getting from Point A to Point B, never forget how fortunate you are to be given the opportunity to stand in front of people who are there to listen. In the grand scheme of things, this is a pretty good gig.