"People don't care how much you know until they know how much you care." - Theodore Roosevelt.
The classic quote from Roosevelt may have been looking at general interpersonal connections, but as presenters it should definitely be right at the forefront of good speaking. You know that talking to your audience requires you to figure out what's in it for them i.e. why they should care about the content.
Why do you care?
This question is not intended to be answered flippantly or quickly. Fundamentally digging into your reason for speaking to an audience is very important and delivers a special boost to you as a speaker. Why are you passionate about the topic? What about your message or content makes you feel excited or interested? What emotions are stirred in you when you consider what you're going to say?
I diverge from many great presenters and coaches when considering the three fundamentals of good speaking. Generally speaking, when books, articles, training courses and trainers boil down public speaking to three core points, they say it's about:
- Logical structure
- Relevant & engaging message/content
- Proper, effective delivery
These three points are not wrong. In fact, I very much agree. That said, the third point is challenging because good delivery includes things like:
- Body language (facial expressions, gestures, stance, movement, eye contact, nervous tics etc.)
- Other physical components (energy level, how are you dressed, how do you use the space you have, how is your voice etc.)
- Theatrical components (dramatic voice, gestures, pauses, acting out situations etc.)
- Audience interaction (questions, jokes, looks, games, psychology etc.)
- Technical and preparation components (computers, protectors, flip charts, white boards, other visual aids etc.)
All of these are great points, but to try to keep them in mind when presenting, especially when you are early in your public speaking career or learning about speaking, is incredibly difficult. More often than not, people I've worked with have found these points overwhelming to look at because there are too many at one time.
Instead of delivery, consider passion.
Passion is powerful because when you truly care about something, it will come across in your entire presence, way of communicating, body language and energy on the stage, voice and most of the other parts of personal delivery. Someone who is passionately communicating on a topic is a far above technically good presenters who speak from their head.
Passion is a game changer
It will make you a person others want to listen to. Get passionate about your topic and let your audience feel that. Why do you care about what you are saying? Answer that and really get into the mood. It will help your delivery no end and, even better, you'll need to think less about that deliver because it will come naturally.
Take a simple activity challenge with some friends or colleagues. Each of you gives a short (1-2 minute) presentation on various items of office stationary or household items. You should have plenty to choose from for either topic (pens, pencils, rules, sticky notes, mouse pads or forks, spoons, cups, cushions, curtains etc.) and, most likely, it'll be dull and factual.
Repeat the presentation and change the topic to your favourite hobby or sport, a person who inspires you, a change in the world you want to make or the job you dream of doing (which is hopefully the same one you have).
Notice the difference between the two. I've had the chance to run this simple activity many many times and, even though it's predictable, people are consistently amazed at how much more powerful the second presentations are. The speakers come alive. The room fills with their energy and passion. The audience wants to listen more because...how could you not want to listen to passionate people, almost regardless of the topic?
Now your challenge is to apply that kind of passionate thinking to other speaking contexts. Why are you talking about the topic? Why does it make you feel passionate? Why do you care? It may be tough, especially with things less positive than your favourite hobby or similar, but you'll be amazed how much better it'll be and how audiences will respond to you when you do find it.
Find your passion for the topic.
Use the passion to connect the audience to the topic.
Help your audiences find and connect with you.