The president of a company in crisis should contact his sales managers. He goes out on stage holding a rope in his right hand. He looks at his audience and says in a firm voice: “We are at the bottom of a well. We have this rope. We can do two things with it: hang ourselves or use it to climb to the surface. The decision is yours. ” This is a shocking way to start an intervention. As the famous British politician Winston Churchill said, “a good speech must begin with force”. Of course, this is very easy to say, but the truth is that on very few occasions it is carried out with sufficient success.
Maybe this is because the principle of intervention is the worst psychological moment for a speaker. You enter the scene, you are nervous and lacking in rhythm. You have not got used to the environment and the eyes that watch you. You do not want to stay blank or make a mistake. The public may keep talking and not even look at you. You want to get their attention without making a fool of yourself. But do not be scared. We all have the ability to communicate. If you are able to tell a story to your friends and be entertaining and interesting, you are able to capture the attention of the public.
PLEASE, PAY ATTENTION
Many managers who have to speak in public before the shareholders’ meeting or in a convention, consider that others will pay attention only for the fact of being their subordinates or colleagues. This is false. A study on internal communication explains that 78% of respondents believe that the main challenge of their managers is to learn to expose their messages and 35%, learn to speak better in public. The study concludes that managers must change their mentality when communicating effectively their messages. The manager should set aside conventional and distant style when speaking in public. The goal is to connect with the audience.
To achieve this, it is necessary to begin with an impactful resource that involves the listeners, captures their attention and awakens their interest. The writer, and also politician, Lockwood Thorpe said that the audience is won or lost in the first five sentences. For this reason, a striking beginning achieves three fundamental objectives for the speaker:
- Get attention. The public finds it hard to leave their inner world. They are thinking about how badly they left the car parked, in the purchases that they will have to do on the way out, the pending work … That’s why you have to get their attention. If you do not get their interest from the beginning it will be harder and harder to do it.
- Persuade. Public interventions, whether in a shareholders ‘meeting, a work meeting or a vendors’ meeting, aim to convince others of our point of view, persuade them and motivate them to act in a certain direction. The first 30 seconds are crucial: the public will decide if they feel sympathy for the speaker and if it is convenient to pay attention to them.
- Present the subject of the speech. The first sentences should introduce the central axis of the speech. There is no point in attracting attention or that the public has fun, if the object of the talk is not clear. The important thing must be said at the beginning. The first sentences should be closely related to the main theme of the speech and this should be clear to the listener. We can not start with a joke, no matter how good it is, that has no relation to the talk.
DISCOURSES FOR DIFFERENT OCCASIONS
There are many ways to start a dissertation that get the attention of the public and put it on our side. Personal anecdotes, quotes, questions addressed to the audience, surprising data… To know which is the most appropriate for a specific discourse, keep in mind two factors:
- Stage. It is not the same to speak in a congress, in which there are multiple speakers and objectives, than to give a lecture, in which only one expert speaks on a very specific topic. Therefore, we must adapt the beginning of the speech to the different scenarios. In an assembly where results are exposed you can start with figures and in a convention to motivate sales managers an emotional touch will be necessary. If you are going to be the only one to speak, you will have more freedom. If there are several speakers you will have to coordinate the beginning and end of your speech with the others and plan transition moments.
- Adapt to the typology of your audience. Age, cultural level, sex, ideology and the number of attendees also condition the principle of communication. It is highly recommended to ask the organizers of the act about the characteristics of the audience before beginning to write the speech.
If the audience is small, a more participatory start can be chosen, directly asking each listener; If you are very young you can quote a famous person with whom you feel identified; if all are women it will be effective to start the intervention with a data that affects them.
NO ONE UNDERSTANDS ME
Once you have decided what to tell at the beginning of your speech, you have to know how to tell it. The most exciting anecdote and the funniest joke lose their effectiveness if the proper language is not used. Some advices:
- Clear and simple language. Use words that are appropriate for your audience and that everyone understands. Avoid technicalities, acronyms and translate terms that are not familiar. If you start with a data, round the amount whenever possible. It is better to say “a billion” than “992 million and a half”.
- Short phrases. If a sentence is too long, convert it to two. Do not use subordinate phrases that can make your audience lose.
- Grammatical order. It respects the logical order of the phrase and avoids passive ones (it is better “the company presented the benefits” than “the benefits were presented by the company”.
- Better a verb than a noun. It is a good resource to move to action and makes the talk more expressive.
- Repeat, repeat and repeat. The public does not have to grasp the idea at first. Repeat what is important. So that your audience does not get bored, use different words to say the same thing. Unamuno said that what you hear many times ends up being accepted, no matter how absurd.
The principle can be exciting, fun, surprising, but above all you must be very prepared.
The sins of improvisation
Regarding the beginning of a speech, you should know that to be successful when speaking in public you can not leave anything to improvisation. You have to try a lot to be natural and spontaneous. To get the best result, we give you some useful tips especially aimed at those speakers who still lack sufficient experience:
Memorize the principle of discourse. Otherwise, you run the risk of being like those people who destroy the jokes by advancing its end.
Out loud. The speaker has to hear how his talk sounds. Therefore, it is advisable to use a friend or someone you trust to listen, at least the beginning of the speech, before you offer it. In this way, you can see if it has enough characteristics to achieve the desired impact.
Coordinate the words and gestures. If necessary, you have to rehearse before the mirror or even videotape.
Believe in what you are saying. Eagerness and trust are contagious. The speech, especially in its beginning and in the end, must have passion, feeling, conviction, desire to seduce and persuade. With this, the speaker will put the audience in his pocket.
If, in spite of everything, in front of the microphone you remain blank, remember how another newbie speaker stepped out: When I arrived here only God and I knew what I was going to say.
IT’S ALL STARTING. RESOURCES TO ENCOURAGE YOUR PUBLIC’S ATTENTION
The first words you pronounce will determine the success of your speech. If you start badly, you will not get the attention or sympathy of the attendees. The tactics of the experts to initiate an oral intervention could be summarized in the words of Guy de Maupassant:
“Make me dream. Make me laugh. Make me get excited Make me cry. Make me think.”
1. Question. The question challenges the audience, links it immediately with the speech and stimulates their attention. If there are few people, you can ask individually or vote by show of hands. With this, you imply that you care about the ideas and experiences of the audience, the discourse changes rhythm and you get additional information that can help you focus the rest of the dissertation.
Helpful tips. The question must directly affect the interests of the audience (“How many of you have a mortgage?”) Or arouse your curiosity (“Do you know how many hired assassins offer their services in Spain?”). The rhetorical question is also very effective (“How many more small business owners will we have to close so that the government can change its fiscal policy?”).
2. Appointment. An ingenious quote on the subject to be treated is a safe and widely used resource. To choose the right appointment we must take into account the public and choose an author that connects with him, that arouses his sympathy or admiration. Therefore, the appointment does not have to be extracted from a classic. The appointment of a contemporary character or someone simply famous is more effective in certain audiences. A saying or popular saying can also be effective.
Do not resort to hackneyed dates, there must be a certain element of surprise. Experts recommend buying a dating dictionary ordered by subject or resort to dating sites and Internet anecdotes.
3. Statistics and data. The statistics usually offer surprising data capable of extracting from its lethargy the most conformist of the listeners. In addition, statistics are always strong, unquestionable. He speaks statistics and it is as if God himself solemnly pronounced.
Helpful tips. The data that surprises, disturbs or excites the curiosity of the public is more effective (“45% of children see violent scenes on television daily”). We must also help interpret the data (“Last year we invoiced 50 million euros.” Is it a lot or a little? Is growth adequate ?, etc.). To find statistics compile press clippings and official documents.
4. Object. When he takes a thing in his hand and stands up so that everyone can observe it, everyone, absolutely everyone, watches. It is highly recommended when our audience knows us (we speak to employees or colleagues with whom we eat every day) and, therefore, is less prone to surprise.
Helpful tips. The more impressive the object, the more successful you will be among the public. If you talk about deforestation, you can show a photo of the Amazon, but it will be more effective if you hold a chainsaw in your hands.
5. Anecdote. We can start the speech with a story in the first person that tells something that we have lived or witnessed. This strengthens the connection with the audience, who will remember similar experiences. Also, personalize the dissertation, since you add something that nobody but you can add. The goal is to use your own experience as an example of a general experience. The best anecdotes are brief and closely related to the speaker, the audience and the subject. And, if possible, with a touch of emotion.
Helpful tips. Ask yourself to what extent the topic you are going to speak about affects you and how you can relate that topic to your daily life. If you talk about banking products, maybe you can tell what happened to you that time at the ATM. But remember that the speech is not about you. Be brief, be modest and reject stories that do not help you achieve your goals.
6. Story. You can start with a story, a legend, a story of suspense or humor. From small, we pay attention to the story that begins with an “Once Upon a Time …” and to all, without a doubt, we like good fiction stories. To serve as an introduction the story must have a moral or interpretation that is useful for your speech.
Helpful tips. It is advisable brevity. The longer the story, the greater the emotional shock or grace must be. Use humor with caution and not ironices about beliefs, races, ideologies or any issue that you intuit could annoy your audience.
7. Images. Use expressive resources such as metaphors, hyperboles or comparisons. With an image that symbolizes the object of your talk, you will achieve three objectives: stimulate the imagination of the audience and help them remember what you want to say. It is more effective to say that “there are senior managers who behave like the African wasp. They enter the victim’s body and devour it from within “, that” corporate corruption is a very serious problem “.
Helpful tips. The listener will make a mental image of what you intend to convey. You must ensure that this image is accurate, surprising, ingenious and linked to the object of your exhibition. Do not hesitate to exaggerate but do not be pedantic.
THE FIRST IMPRESSION
The first visual impression must be as strong and lasting as the first words. We only have one opportunity to make a good first impression. The golden rule to achieve it is naturalness. In addition, consistency is required between words and gestures:
- Look. Before you start talking, come into visual contact with the audience, look in the eyes of the audience. If you do not do it, they will not listen to you and interpret that you do not have confidence in yourself or that you hide something. If the audience is small, look at everyone. If this is not possible, divide the gaze, establishing six points of reference, three in the front rows and three in the back rows.
- Gestures. Use your own gestures naturally. Do not exaggerate, or you will distract the attention of the public. Avoid putting your hands in your pockets, playing with the keys, crossing your arms or resting on your hips. But if you do it unintentionally, calm down. Naturalness comes first.
- Movements. The lectern has gone out of style. It is better to move freely on the stage and to the audience with a wireless microphone. If, in spite of this, you want lectern, do not entrench yourself behind it. Go out from time to time and get close to the public. Experts recommend that the lectern is installed to the right of the stage: the ally public sits on the right and the terrorist on the left.
- Locker room. More formal interventions need a classic wardrobe. For more relaxed occasions you can opt for a more casual look although you should always respect some external minimums connected with the classic way of dressing. Give a touch of color with the accessories: ties, handkerchiefs. For example, the executives of a major Spanish bank often play with the color red in their complements because it is identified with the image of the financial institution for which they work.
- Voice. The first words should be pronounced in a clear and strong tone. Do not speed up Begin the speech slowly and emphasize what you think is important.
- Smile. If you present a relaxed and relaxed look, the audience will react in the same way. The smile causes a sympathy effect, use it often.
SPEAKERS TO SCENE
It’s the moment of truth, whether you’re ready or not. The last moments before starting to speak are the worst: nerves and stage fright appear. To fight panic and make sure everything is ready, follow these steps:
- Last preparations . Arrive at the conference, convention or assembly site with time to review the room. Check the visual equipment, the sound system, the arrangement of the chairs, the lectern, the temperature, the lights …
- Spying on the public. Look behind the scenes at the arrival of the public. Do not start until at least two-thirds of the attendees are present. Otherwise, you will not get the attention of the public in the first moments, more occupied in accommodating yourself and observing the people who enter. Make sure they feel the way you intended.
- Relaxation. Before entering, it moves fear away with a constructive internal thought. Use abdominal breathing to control nerves and practice a muscle relaxation exercise.
- Review the appearance. One minute before leaving, check your clothes and hair, look in the mirror and clear your throat. Do not make these gestures on the way to the rostrum.
- Presentation. Before beginning the speech, you must present yourself before the audience. The NBTI route is the best way to introduce ourselves. “N” for name, “B” for background, “T” for talk, “I” for importance. That is, we will say our name, the professional and personal background that empowers us to talk about this particular issue, the subject of the talk and why it is important for the audience to hear us.
A GOOD FINISH GIVES MORE BRIGHTNESS
A brilliant start and a good development of a speech can be reduced to nothing if the closing of the speech is not very successful. It is the final impression that the public will take and what they will remember most easily.
Here are some ideas to put the final touch to your speech:
- Summarize. Begin the countdown. The end is a good time to reiterate – in the most summary way possible – the fundamental ideas of your speech. However, keep in mind that in no case should these ideas be more than three.
- Propose. It is very effective to end with a proposal or solution on the subject that has been raised, always supporting you in objective arguments and not opinions. Now, above all, it makes clear what benefits your proposal has for the attending public.
- Close the circle. You can finish how you started, with an appointment, question or anecdote that links the beginning and the end.
- Incite. Invite the public to take a specific action or support a cause. To do this, move the emotional and rational springs of the audience, appeals to their feelings or their interests.
- Thank. In all cases you should thank the attention they have given you. It will be enough to make a pause at the end of the talk and say: “Thank you very much”.
- Avoid topics. Never finish your speech with topical phrases such as “My time is running out”, “I see that they are tired” or “Right away”.
These are some of the most frequent mistakes of the novice speaker at the beginning of his dissertation:
- Routine words. Do not start saying conventional things. At two minutes your audience will be bored and stop paying attention.
- Unnecessary apologies. Avoid the type phrases “I really do not know anything about this subject”, “I hope not to bore you”, “I will be forgiven”, “This subject is a little arid”. If you confess to yourself so poorly trained, what will your audience think?
- Dangerous jokes. Do not start with a joke about beliefs, religion, sex, ideology, nationalism or any other slippery subject. And even less, if you do not have the grace to tell it.
- Talk to only one person. Many speakers fix their gaze on the listener who seems most sympathetic to them and does not look at the rest of the audience, they will all hate you: the sympathetic pure burden; the rest, by default.
- Incomprehensible euphemisms. Do not use political language for your speeches, avoid circumlocutions (“inserting oneself in the framework of a polemic” means simply “arguing”).
- The story that does not come to mind. As much as you like an anecdote, if you do not, keep it for another time.
- Roll up. The anecdote, example or story that serves as an introduction can not last more than 10% of the total time of your intervention. The conclusion will occupy another 10%, and the development of the theme, the rest.
- Pre-calculate the times in your house. And try to be brief, everyone will appreciate it.