Whether in a board meeting, team discussions or presenting to thousands,
your motive is to bring improvement in people’s quality of life. That
can be either persuading people to see the world from your perspective
or encouraging/challenging them to do more with what they have to change
If you are addressing sales people you want your words to create clear
mental pictures of the better lives customers experience by using your
products/services. When addressing the entire organization, you want
your presentation to be the platform from which each employee becomes
responsible for the entire organization’s success. If you are a public
leader, your words can transform your constituents’ fears and concerns
into positive expectations.
For over 15 years, I have coached and mentored public and private leaders,
football coaches, spiritual leaders and educators in how to address
different situations with the spoken word. While content has not been
a major issue, how to deliver it and make a difference is what keeps
most leaders up at night only to put their audience to sleep. They fail
because of poor delivery style, not because of their content.
On the other hand, limited content, well written and well delivered,
has consistently turned inspired masses in action. Lincoln delivered
the Gettysburg address in two minutes, yet millions of people have
never heard of Edward Everett, the featured speaker who spoke for
Here are some proven strategies that will not only captivate your audience, but inspire them to act.
Declare your presence. Dress for the occasion, at least one notch
above the audience. Always remember your appearance is the first aspect of
your speech to be evaluated. Greet as many people as possible before your
presentation. It creates the connection and anticipation that makes them
want to hear you. Remain silent (pause) as you take a full view of the
audience after you have been introduced. Today’s audiences are inundated
with noise. Pausing for a few seconds is an effective way to invite them
to listen to your words.
Disturb them immediately. A provocative quote (when you quote others,
you will be quoted), statistical reference, question or a brief analogy that
creates a mental picture of the magnitude of the issue you are addressing
will capture your audience’s initial attention.
Use words they understand. Your audience must feel as if it’s
the first time they’ve heard such words. Not fancy, complicated
language—words that speak to the real concerns of your audience.
I was recently stunned by a woman, probably in her fifties, who told
me I changed her life with one sentence at an event where I was a
featured speaker. I said, “Always know that you are the CEO of all
you do.” After more than five years, she still remembered them—those
words moved her to make a decision to go back to college.
Be vulnerable. The story of your life’s experiences is the element
that creates the emotional connections needed for your audience to
internalize your story, rekindle their determination to triumph over
adversities and ignite their vision and commitment for a better
tomorrow regardless of the prevailing or perceived challenges.
Your story must be told in a way that it becomes the launching
board for your audience’s new beginning.
Please don’t use PowerPoint—if you don’t know how to use it effectively.
It is a disgrace to waste your audience’s time by mishandling a powerful
tool. If it is a must, make sure everyone in the audience can read each
word in your PowerPoint slide. And remember Richard Nixon’s wisdom that,
“Too many slides make audiences sleepy.”
Take advantage of the power of props. Can you imagine football coaches
and players wanting to see and/or touch the football I use as a prop in
my presentations? That football, though a familiar item to them, became
a symbol of sacred reference for a life lesson that has touched their
hearts. Never ignore the power of what can be seen.
Make it a once in a lifetime event. No one should ever need convincing
that first impressions matter after a little known Illinois senator
introduced himself to the world with a speech at the 2004 Democratic
Party Convention. Four years later, Barack Obama became the 44th president
of the United States of America. Prepare your presentation as if it’s the
only one you will ever give. If it changes someone’s world, your world will
Sing and/or read that poem. There is a part of the human heart that is
touched by songs and poems in ways words can’t describe. If you want to
melt people’s hearts, moving them to reconsider anew their hope of greater
expectations in life—sing an inspirational song or read an inspiring poem.
Be authentic. Don’t take other people’s materials or style and pretend
it’s yours. The audience will know it and distrust whatever else you say.
Make your closing a defining moment. You disturbed them with the first
sentence. Your content made them know why they listened to you. Your final
words should leave them wanting to act immediately on what they heard.
By Dr. Vincent Muli Wa Kituku, motivational speaker, Boise State adjunct professor
and author of Overcoming Buffaloes at Work & in Life is an expert who works with
organizations to increase productivity through leadership and employee development
programs. Contact him at www.overcomingbuffaloes.com or (208) 376-8724.