Drop the mic – The structure of an inspiring speech

Speeches, as with presentations and important announcements can be a pretty daunting task. It is something that becomes unavoidable as you climb higher up the corporate ladder.

Being a good speaker is one of the common traits of a thought leader. Confidence, coherence, and finesse may sound like a piece of cake, but are a lot harder to execute in reality. Most of us tend to get caught up with stage fright and forget about the actual preparation.

Like most things, it takes a little time, patience and personality to ace the speech, so here are some tips to help you drop the mic and kill it.

Be aware of your audience

Know who you are speaking to – students at a study hall, media guests at a launch event, or corporate VIPs at a business convention. Who ever it may be, being aware of your audience will help set the tone and delivery of your speech.

Check out this great speech from Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg as she discusses why fewer women reach the top of their professions. You can guess her audience is women, and Sheryl addresses her points so well.

Understand your topic

It’s easier to explain something that you are passionate about. Knowing and understanding the topic of your speech will give you the confidence to express yourself better and do a phenomenal job at delivering the message.

Watch as Hollywood actress Scarlett Johansson movingly talks of growing up in ‘lower-income-housing’ and about the people she knows who still rely on the state for healthcare. Clearly she knows her topic, and can relate to it, and is using her experience and knowledge to educate others – it’s powerful:

Brainstorm

List down as many potential talking points as you can. Take a minute to review that list and pick out the relevant and important points to go into length about.

Structure

Focusing on the important points will provide some structure, maximising the delivery of your speech. Your audience will appreciate the pacing and flow, which will engage and prevent them from tuning out and getting bored.

One killer line

Put some thought into that one killer line that encapsulates your speech – it packs in a punch and makes it thoughtful and memorable.

Think about Martin Luther King’s “I have a dream”, or John F Kennedy’s “…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can for your country” – both were delivered with passion and punch:

Repetition

Build on your intensity and impact by repeating the important points.

Martin Luther King boldly repeated, “I have a dream”, but if you find that repeating your killer line may be too much of an overkill – try instead simple repetition of brands, names or important points that you want your audience to remember.

Introduction

Grab the audience’s attention from the start – make a joke, share an interesting fact, tell a story or a personal experience. Get the message across in three points or less. This will avoid unnecessary droning.

Body 

Keep it short, simple and to the point. The key is to keep things as succinct as possible. This is easier said than done, but using the structure as a guide will help focus on the messaging.

Conclusion

There is no need to stress too much about ending with a bang. Try leaving it up to the audience. Open the floor to questions as this is one of the best ways to discover how effective your speech was. It gives you an opportunity to sense the energy of your audience – do they seem excited and eager to ask more questions? Or are they slumped in their seats, eyes glazed and lifeless?

There is always something to take away from the end of your speech so use this as a lesson for your next one.

Practice makes perfect

Read your speech out loud alone, practice in front your friends and record yourself. Listen to constructive criticism and feedback, and take everything onboard.

Do you need help writing your next speech? Our team is ready to make your words work for you. Get in touch at [email protected].

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Miss Universe 2015: Recovering from a total **** up

Oh, Steve Harvey. I feel for you.

It should have been a shining moment, announcing the Miss Universe 2015 winner. It was supposed to be magical– for both yourself and the ladies on stage – but instead Miss Colombia and Miss Philippines have been left to deal with your flub, while you have become a laughing stock / most hated man on TV this week.

(I say this week, because someone else is bound to do something that steals away the limelight in a matter of days.)

In case you have no idea what I’m talking about, TV game show host Steve Harvey hosted the Miss Universe pageant this week and mistakenly crowned Miss Colombia the winner, when in fact she was the runner up. On live TV.

After the music played, the glitter fell from the ceiling and Miss Colombia was given her crown while crying tears of joy, Steve had to slink back on stage for a “sorry, just kidding, I made a mistake” moment.

Miss Colombia was in fact the first runner-up, and Miss Philippines was the winner. Steve read the card wrong. HASHTAG AWKWARD.

Watch the train wreck here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nmqAjr0xs04

Everyone’s giving poor old Steve a hard time. On one hand, I understand why. He is a professional host and entertainer, probably being paid a pretty penny to host the biggest beauty pageant in the world, and mistakes like this just don’t fly on live TV.

But on the other hand, mistakes do happen. Live TV is a stressful business. It’s the reason why the pay packets tend to be big for the professionals, and it’s also why in the world of PR we dedicate a good chunk of time media training our clients on how to handle themselves in front of the camera. It’s not easy, and even consummate professionals are prone to screw ups.

One of the most important things we tell our clients about live TV interviews is that if you make a mistake, you can recover. No, you can’t take back whatever was said or done – but you can learn how to conduct yourself and your response to the mistake in such a way that people forgive you, and maybe even forget it altogether.

People are being hard on Steve, but I actually think his recovery was pretty good. Look, it was a crap situation, and he didn’t have a choice – he HAD to right the wrong he’d made. Numerous commenters online have suggested Steve and the Miss Universe panel should have just let the mistake run (“no one would know!”), but there’s no covering up a mistake like that. It would have taken no time at all for the truth to be revealed, and then both Steve and the organisation would have had an even bigger PR crisis on their hands.

Steve came back on stage apologising, but not making excuses for his mistake, which was the right thing to do. As the crowd started booing, Steve addressed the audience and took full responsibility for the blunder, while simultaneously trying to give the girls their time in the limelight.

Both girls looked like deers in headlights (oh my god, it’s just so awkward when they take the crown off Miss Colombia’s head) but he did his best.

In fact, I reckon he did better in his recovery than a couple of other live TV blunders.

In 2010, model Sarah Murdoch announced the wrong winner of Australia’s Next Top Model (cringe) but came back on stage about a minute later with an awful, “Oh my god, I don’t know what to say right now. I feel a bit sick about this. No. I’m so sorry about this, oh my god. I don’t know what to say, this is a complete accident – It’s Amanda. It was fed to me wrong. Oh god. This is what happens when you have live TV, folks.”

To their credit, the models are super nice about it. They handled it well – Sarah, not so much:

Regarding Steve, a few marketing and brand experts tend to agree he wasn’t solely at fault in his mistake. Many also believe he recovered well and, in fact, the design of the card he was reading from was at least partially to blame for the mess.

cue card

I mean, it’s not a very well-designed winning card for a multi-million dollar, hugely-produced international beauty pageant, is it? How was the design of this pretty damn important piece of paper totally overlooked?

Screen Shot 2015-12-22 at 12.19.59 pm

Want to learn more about speaking to media and conducting yourself during media interviews? Get in touch with us at [email protected]

5 ways to get booed off stage

Pretty much all great orators – the ones who can talk to 10,000 people while giving off that ‘just having a casual chat with my mate on the sofa’ vibe – can do what they do because they have a lot of practice under their belts. Many have also probably had media training.

Public speaking with impact takes practice and planning. All companies worth their salt understand the importance their ambassadors have in representing their brand, and invest in experts like us at Mutant to help develop confident and compelling delivery.

However, we’ve seen plenty of people who have decided to jump in front of an audience without proper training, thinking they know what they’re doing (can anyone say crash and burn?)

Here are five of the most effective but un-obvious ways to completely lose your audience.

1. Inflate that ego, Narcissus.

“I really really want the audience to like me!”

If you want to alienate your audience and make them instantly dislike you, put yourself before them.

Essentially, your approach to public speaking is all wrong if you aren’t considering what your audience is going to get out of your speech or presentation. You should be asking yourself, “what do I want the audience to leave with, and how do I make this as easy for them to understand as possible?

A presentation should be planned, written and practised with the audience in mind. This might include:

– Explaining to the audience why you are there and what you are going to present
– Speak important points slowly and repeat them if necessary – but not to the point of condescension
– Conclude by recapping on salient point.

Just remember your audience likely doesn’t know the content as well as you do, so be nice, personable and make your presentation an enjoyable experience – not something they have to survive through.

2. Have absolutely no idea who you’re talking to

Who are your audience? Are they industry leaders? Experienced professionals? Media? Or fresh-faced young talent with a blank slate and open minds? Let the audience inform your delivery.

If they are experts in your field, feel free to dive deep on the detail, acronyms and jargon. If not, calibrate accordingly. It’s surprising how many people get this wrong.

3. Keep it boring, stale, and loooooooooooooong

Even if you’re speaking to a room of industry heavyweights, don’t make the mistake of trying to show superior intelligence by being verbose. Using impenetrable language and stretching one point into five alienates your audience, turns them off and bores them to death. At worst, you might make them think you have something to hide (I could have used the word obfuscate but then, but I chose not to, precisely for this reason.)

TED speakers aren’t allowed to exceed 18 minutes for their presentations. You have a precious time limit for the audience’s attention, who will probably only leave remembering three of your points. Choose them wisely and give them impact.

4. Leave them wanting…less?

A good speech should be like a woman’s skirt; long enough to cover the subject and short enough to create interest.” – Winston Churchill

Thanks for the typically uncouth quote Winston, but you get the point. This massively applies to a presentation where you want to signpost the audience onto something else. It could be to a product, another event or even an interview with your client. Spill all of the beans and they wont have any need to pursue it further.

5. Over rely on scripts and slides

“I’ll read from my script. That way I’ll avoid the risk of saying the wrong thing or forgetting my point.”

No, no, and no. A speech, presentation or interview is about having a conversation. Even if you’re the only one talking on stage, you’re trying to create a dialogue – not a monologue – between yourself and the audience, and the only way to do that is to talk, not read, and be engaging while you do it.

You want people to walk away believing two things:

a) You believe in your stuff
b) You know your stuff

Yes, it’s good to prepare. But to rely on a script equals less engagement and snoring audiences. Your whole tone and body language changes when you read, rather than talk, and it’s highly obvious. Plus, there are the technicalities to be concerned with. What if the projector doesn’t work on the day? What if someone wants to interview you afterwards to clarify or repeat a point? Knowing your key themes and messages will allow you avoid having to re-wind the tape and start over again.

Learn two or three key points you want to convey from each slide and practice making each point off the cuff without crutches. This will make you more natural, relaxed and ultimately more compelling.

Want to learn more about how to better conduct yourself in front of media? Get in touch with us at hello@mutant.com.sg

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5 lessons in public speaking (as illustrated by famous people)

It’s hard to talk in front of an audience. Your palms sweat, the lights can be too bright, and your brain can abandon you right when you need it the most.

Public speaking is an art form, whether you’re in a boardroom in front of three people or an auditorium in front of 3,000. The language, the tone, the pace, the structure – getting it right is no easy feat, and the best speakers in the world have had years of practice to iron out their mistakes.

If you’ve got to talk in front of people in your working life, the best thing you can do is to keep practicing. The second best thing you can do, is watch and learn from others.

I’ve chosen five (well, actually eight – I had to lump a few together) famous faces to help teach us all a few different aspects about speaking in front of a crowd.

1. Donald Trump: Command the attention of the room

Personally, I find nothing particularly great about Donald Trump. His politics, his ideas, his comments, and yes, his hair – none of it is very appealing. However, when he speaks, I find it hard to tune out.

Listen to him in the clip below. He is enthralling. Don’t pay attention to what he’s saying, but listen to how he is saying it. He delivers his message effortlessly, he commands the attention of the room and he says everything with such conviction. He orders everyone to listen to him when he talks – and that’s the sort of confidence gained via years of public speaking.

The next time you’re addressing a group, remember Trump’s confidence and attempt to exude the same vibe. YOU are on stage. YOU own it. Don’t let anyone tell you to shut up.

2. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie: Be authentic and sincere

If you don’t know this Nigerian novelist, you should watch the below clip in full. Chances are you were introduced to her after Beyoncé sampled the below TED speech she gave in 2013 in her hit song Flawless, but you didn’t know it. Now you do. You’re welcome.

I have listened to many of Chimamanda’s speeches (she’s in quite high demand these days) mainly because I love her stance on feminism, gender construction and sexuality, but also because she is so easy to listen to. Her voice projects well, but her message projects more. Why? Because she genuinely cares about what she’s talking about. Her whole life has led to the point where she’s in demand globally to talk to others, and the sincerity of her being comes through, whether she’s addressing one person or one hundred.

You don’t need to have a story to be genuine on stage, but you do need to believe in what you’re discussing. Whether you’re talking about big or trivial issues, you will connect with your audience if you are authentic.

Tip: You might have notes prepared, but if something strikes you mid-speech, just say it. It sounds trite, but if it comes from the heart, your audience will pick up on it straight away. Sometimes that’s better than referring to your notes.

3. Steve Jobs: Tell a compelling story

The best way to get your audience’s attention is to engage them in a story. Everyone loves a story.

“Today, I want to tell you three stories from my life. That’s it – no big deal – just three stories.”

With that first sentence, Jobs sets the scene for everyone in the audience, and they eagerly wait to hear what nuggets of wisdom he’ll come out with. As it happens, his three stories are about why he dropped out of college and “connecting the dots in your future”, love and loss, and – sadly – death.

The stories are littered with anecdotes and honest assessments of his past and present – perfect for an audience of college graduates, really – and they weave together effortlessly. Getting your point across by telling a story is so much more effective than listing your points and just talking at people.

A story builds a narrative, humanises your message, and engages people in something that is ‘real’ – that they can relate to.

4. Lupita Nyong’o (and Roberto Benigni, Winston Churchill, and Martin Luther King Jr.): Choose your words carefully

When giving a speech – in any capacity – the speaker holds the power to change things. Sometimes big things, like people’s opinions and beliefs. When this is the case, it’s extremely important to be vigilant and careful in how you deliver your message.

Language is a beautiful thing, and a good speech can read like poetry. This speech by Lupita has its downfalls (mostly her sniffing, but I think that’s due to be overcoming with emotion, so I can’t really fault her for that), but in it, she says such a beautiful line that has always stuck with me:

“You can’t eat beauty. It doesn’t feed you. What is fundamentally beautiful is compassion for yourself and for those around you. That kind of beauty inflames the heart and enchants the soul.”

Too cheesy? I’m also quite partial to this speech from Italian actor Roberto Benigni when he won an Oscar for his leading role in Life is Beautiful (also my all-time favourite movie – if you haven’t seen it, watch it!)

The poetry in his speech isn’t in the language of his endearingly broken English, but in his body and mannerisms. He speaks with his whole body and his energy seeps out of him (he even makes Goldie Hawn cry). He is so grateful that he is loved by so many, and even though he sometimes struggles to find the words, you can tell he’s thought a lot about how he would accurately express his gratitude if he won.

And I can’t talk about poetry, emotion and the power of language without giving mention to both Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I have a dream” speech, and Winston Churchill’s “We shall fight on the beaches” speech – both of which, in two completely different ways, united people, reassured them and inspired them.

5. Matthew McConaughey: Structure is important

Oscar speeches are usually filled with too much emotion and excitement to be coherent – they babble through a list of people’s names and flub over their words. Which is why it was rather fantastic when Matthew McConaughey won for his role in Dallas Buyer’s Club and jumped up on stage to give what I think is one of the best Oscar speeches ever.

He leads in with the expected thank yous, but quickly goes on to tell a short story about his hero, which is both insightful and entertaining. He has planned what he was going to say – you can tell, because he almost doesn’t say a single “umm” – and has structured it in a way that will keep people’s attention, make them feel, and make them laugh.

Ending with the “alright, alright, alright” was a genius touch (anyone who has seen Dazed and Confused will get it) leaving his speech on the perfect note.

If you’d like to discuss public relations, content marketing and media training for your business, please get in touch with us at [email protected] 

10 tips for constructing an engaging speech

joseph-speech

Giving a speech can be pretty daunting. There’s intense pressure to be confident, project your personality, engage the audience and be coherent all at the same time.

Most of us naturally associate the burden of speeches with being on stage, where nerves take over and stage fright rears its ugly head. It’s easy to forget about actually putting time into preparing the content of your speech.

If you take the time to carefully control the flow, structure and timing, people will understand you better – which is half the job already done.

Here are some helpful tips on how to write and plan the content of your speech, so you can take over the world one microphone at a time.

1. Think about your audience

Know who you are speaking to – are you talking to students at a study hall, media guests at a launch event, or corporate VIPs at a business convention? Being aware of your audience will help set the tone and delivery of your speech.


2. Evaluating, and understanding your topic  

Imagine explaining something you are deeply passionate about to someone, be it food, music, or politics. You have no qualms about waxing lyrical because you are familiar and have extensive knowledge about the subject.

Knowing and understanding the topic of your speech will help ensure you have the confidence to express yourself better and do a phenomenal job at delivering the message. Research the subject of your speech, and know it inside out – your new-found confidence will do the rest.

3. Brainstorm

List as many potential talking points as you can. I like to think of it as ‘word vomit’ – regurgitating as many issues and points about your topic as possible. Take a minute to review that list, and pick out the relevant and important points, and use those to create the base and structure of your speech.

4. Build a structure

Focusing on the important points will help to provide some structure, maximising the delivery of your speech. Your audience will appreciate your your practised pace and flow, which will engage them, preventing them from tuning out and getting bored.

5. Introduction

Grab the audience’s attention from the start – make a joke, share an interesting fact, tell a story or share a personal experience. Get the message across in three points or less to avoid unnecessary droning on before you delve into the details.

6. Body 

Keep it short and simple – less is more. The key is to keep things as succinct as possible, to ensure you don’t ramble on out of nervousness. This is easier said than done, but using the structure as a guide will help focus on the messaging.

Throughout the entirety of your speech, it’s also important to remember to project your voice, talk slower than what feels natural and inflect your tone when appropriate so your voice remains engaging, not dull.  

7. Repetition, repetition, repetition…

Build on your intensity and impact by repeating the important points.

Martin Luther King boldly repeated, “I have a dream”, but if you find that repeating too much of an overkill, try instead to repeat things like brands, names or important points you want your audience to remember.

8. One killer line

Martin Luther King had, “I have a dream”. John F Kennedy had “…ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can for your country.”

Can you come up with your own killer one-liner? Put some thought into a moving or impactful statement that encapsulates your speech. It should pack a punch, making your speech a lot more thoughtful and memorable.

9. Conclusion

There’s no need to stress too much about “ending with a bang”. Try leaving it up to the audience, such as opening up the floor to questions. This is also one of the best ways to discover how effective your speech was and gives you an opportunity to sense the energy of your audience. Do they seem excited and eager to ask more questions? Or are they slumped in their seats, eyes glazed and lifeless?

Either way, there is always something to take away from the end of your speech – use this as a lesson for next time.

10. Never stop practicing!

You can never practice a speech too much – read it aloud alone, practice in front of your friends, record yourself and play it back. This is especially useful if you have a strict time limit, but numerous points you need to get across. Listen to constructive feedback and use it to help you improve.

Main image: Shout out to boss-man Joseph Barratt, who is shown giving a great speech at Mutant Communications’ 3rd birthday party recently. Photo by Soh Poh Soo Donald.

If you’re looking for media training for interviews, broadcast or public speaking, get in touch with Farah at [email protected]