As speakers, few of us will ever rise to the level of Winston Churchill, or John F. Kennedy.
But there are things you can – and should – be doing to become a memorable speaker and stand out from the crowd.
What distinguishes you?
One day, sooner than later, take some quiet time to review your speaker “persona.” This includes evaluating your content, your skill in delivering a speech or presentation, your visual appearance, and your likeability.
In going through this introspective exercise, honestly evaluate if you have what it takes to be a memorable speaker.
Content. Begin by analyzing your content. Are you a subject matter expert that people should be listening to? You may be surprised to discover that you’re neglecting to keep up with new developments. You’ve delivered the same generic presentation so often that the content has grown stale.
Clarity. Is your brand fuzzy? You’ve tried to become an expert in too many areas because you want to reach the largest possible audience and be a star presenter. But you can dilute your message and your brand by spreading yourself too thin.
Learn what you’re best at – and best known for – and build your brand so that someone can say, “That’s Kate Jones. She knows more about immigration law than anyone else.”
Delivery. You can be the premier expert in a subject and then fall flat on your face if you are a poor presenter. You may need help from a coach within your company or an outside trainer. She will help you to develop your key messages so that you keep your audience engaged. You can also learn techniques about how to use visual aids and props to deliver a hard-hitting talk.
It’s important to develop a consistent presentation style that is recognizably you so that you come across as the expert that you are. Your body language and the words you use should add to your gravitas and personal brand.
Appearance. Appearance is an important element of your persona. Hillary Clinton is known for her pants suits. As a presidential candidate and then Secretary of State, she wore them to convey her seriousness of purpose.
Madeleine Albright, her predecessor, on the other hand, wore a distinctive pin on her suit lapel or dress to brighten each outfit. After leaving office, she compiled a book with a photo of each pin and the story behind it.
Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, would hardly be recognizable without his hoodie. And the late Steve Jobs, founder of Apple, always wore a black turtleneck and jeans. These casual outfits have become symbols of the new breed of Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.
At a recent New York Women in Communications event — Coffee & Conversations: Women in the Workplace — it was interesting to note that each of the five women on stage wore some color and definitely did not blend into the background. They were all open and conversational and used great examples from their careers. They not only shared their many successes but also some of their biggest failures and lessons learned from each. The event was a huge success.
Likeability. This will always be one of your toughest challenges. Likeability can be elusive.
People may appreciate the content of what you say, and admire how you look, but they have to like you. How you make them feel is critical. Do you come across as a “know-it-all?” Do you try to make audience members feel good about themselves and respect their points of view? Do you show emotion and reveal some of yourself?
You can’t build a wall between you and your audience. It’s important to show some vulnerability and to let the audience in. Authenticity is key as an audience will tune out a speaker who they feel is on automatic pilot speaking with no feeling. Your audience wants to know you are a caring human being. The most memorable speeches move audiences.
Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech brought thousands of participants at the March on Washington to tears in 1963. His words rang out but Dr. King’s passion and humility are what launched a crusade and created his lasting legacy.
Have you taken an introspective look at your presentation style lately? What are you doing to update your speeches and bring true passion to your delivery?