10 Things All Great Speakers Do
The goal of the top speakers is to provide data and information that creates new insights and ideas in the mind of the audience. If a speaker relies on tried-and-true approaches (e.g., “Top 10 Ways to Grow Your Business”), the audience processes the information in an appreciative, yet passive fashion.
Alternatively, if a speaker engages the audience in new and disruptive ways, the audience’s state goes from passive to active. By keeping the audience in an active state during the speech, the transfer of information happens more readily and the audience retains the new information for a longer period after the event.
What follows are 10 ways to the best keynote speakers in the world give their audiences interesting information in a fresh and thought-provoking manner.
1. The best speakers don’t just provide information, they provide insights.
Top speakers don’t deliver content. Instead, they deliver insights, usually in the form of a compelling story that takes conventional wisdom and flips it on its head. The very best speakers have a powerful way of using this approach to create ongoing “Aha!” moments throughout their talks.
2. The goal of the best speakers isn’t to be smart, it’s to be practical.
They take complex issues and demystify them. They disassemble them into small, bite-sized nuggets that are easily digestible. By doing so, they can keep the audience involved and engaged throughout their speeches.
3. The best speakers usually (but not always) dominate the stage.
They have an intangible charisma that helps them own the stage. This is the case in about 90% of the top speakers, although 10% can have a quite, humble presence that can still make a huge impact.
4. The best speakers don’t use the standard techniques of audience involvement.
Instead of using the all-to-common approach of saying, “Raise your hand if you like the color blue,” they say, “75% of all CEOs like what color?” By encouraging the audience to fill in the blank, the speaker forces their brains to actively process information and provide output. It sounds like a minor thing, and it is, but it shifts people from a passive mode to an active mode.
5. The best speakers talk quickly without sounding rushed.
The human brain can process 500 words per minute, but the average person speaks at a rate of 150 words per minute, which gives the audience time for their minds to wander. Many top speakers deliver about 250 to 300 words per minute which prevents the audience from getting distracted by lights, cell phones, microphones or anything else that can detract from their attention. (Note: Speaking quickly does not mean flooding the audience with an overwhelming number of new concepts at once. The brain needs time to digest new concepts in order to process them. A top speaker will lay out new concepts in small chunks, but they’ll fill in the gaps by telling stories around the new concepts.)
6. The best speakers have data and powerful stories.
When a speaker provides data, the audience listens with the intent of critical reasoning, which makes them judge whether they agree or disagree. When a story is being told, the audience suspends its state of critical reasoning, which makes them more open to new ideas and new concepts. Stories have multiple layers of meaning that go beyond sheer data, and data satisfies the need to have numerical proof. Both data and stories are needed to activate attention and retention in a great presentation.
7. The best speakers don’t talk, they share.
By sharing emotions, insights and life stories, top speakers open themselves up to a more genuine, intimate dialogue that facilitates communication. By being vulnerable, they’re asking the audience to share in their vulnerability by bringing the walls down between the speaker and the audience.
8. The best speakers are playful with the audience.
They don’t always rely on old jokes or stories as much as they engage the audience in a back-and-forth, spontaneous conversation filled with levity and mutual joy.
9. The best speakers say things in non-standard ways.
By saying things in a way that’s non-standard, they engage the listener’s mind in a fresh, new way. Instead of saying, “We’re trying to reduce the number of people admitted to our hospital,” they’ll say, “We’re trying to put our hospital out of business.” That outrageous contradiction re-wires the brain so that the listener hears a common phrase with fresh ears.
10.The best speakers change the audiences’ state.
They make people re-frame their preconceived notions, their life models or their approach to things. That doesn’t mean they get them to throw away what works. It just means they get people to get out of their rut, re-frame their thinking and help them shake things up a bit.