Executive Communication Expert Dianna Booher
You’ve probably attended dozens, if not hundreds, of conferences during your career and then listened to the feedback about the conference speakers in the hallway. “He was great.” “She was pretty good.” “Boring. Half the audience walked out.”
Yet, beyond the generalities of “heard it before” or “very entertaining,” those offering the critiques may have been hard pressed to tell you specifically what made the difference in their reactions.
About once a month, I attend a lecture by a highly credentialed scholar. Let’s call him Dr. Max Irving. Technically speaking, he’s always prepared—always on time, always has pages of notes (though he rarely has to refer to them), always has a handout, always has a pleasant attitude, always tosses in a little humor.
He started out with approximately 35 in the group. As of last week, the audience has dwindled to 7.
I’m now comparing that experience to another series last year in which a speaker (Dr. Del Tackett) was brought to the group by video (not live as Dr. Max Irving is now). Although speaking by VIDEO, Dr. Tackett mesmerized the crowd for a full 60 minutes. You could have heard the proverbial pin drop—except for the laughter at his humor here and there. Attendance for his series held steady for the entire 12-week series.
What made the difference between these two well-educated, well-prepared speakers before a crowd who wanted to hear what they had to say? Here’s my take on the difference between good and great speakers.
Good speakers create and organize their talk, building a slideshow to support their key message.
Great speakers analyze their audience and then create and organize their talk to make it relevant; then they decide if and when they’ll add slides to support key points.
Good speakers never “wing it.” They have an outline, with a prepared opening and closing. They’ve reviewed their outline, notes, and/or slides several times so they are thoroughly familiar with the material.
Great speakers have actually done one or more walk-throughs of their presentation. They understand that “knowing the information and what comes next” is only half the job.
Good speakers feed off energy and feedback from the audience.
Great speakers generate their own energy and passion from their interest in the topic, audience, and outcome.
4. Body Language:
Good speakers have good posture, use appropriate gestures, make good eye contact, and move with intention.
Great speakers become their own visual support. Their delivery flows so much in sync with their message and personality that it’s difficult to separate them. Their body language becomes unnoticeable as they mesmerize and engage the audience.
5. Vocal Qualities:
Good speakers choose clear words, articulate well, and vary their pace, volume, and intensity.
Great speakers do the same—but they add rhythm and milk the silences for both subtle and strong messages. Listen to some of your favorite comedians for lessons on pausing.
6. Audience Involvement:
Good speakers talk to an audience.
Great speakers talk with an audience.
7. Response to Questions:
Good speakers answer questions clearly and concisely—whether giving a fact, an example, or an opinion.
Great speakers answer the right questions—by reframing if necessary to make their point. They make sure their response is memorable by providing appropriate structure, colorful phrasing, and apt examples.
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