by Flo Akinbiyi
Ten winning strategies on how to talk so people listen.
You can have the greatest content, the smartest idea, and the most brilliant strategy, but if people don’t listen while you speak, you won’t get their buy-in and most certainly you won’t inspire any action. Here is the great news, getting the attention of your audience is not difficult, you just need to refine your content and enhance your delivery. Let’s explore some of my most beloved strategies that allow you to make an impact.
1. Know your audience
If you want your audience to listen, you need to think about who they are. What is their mindset? What do they really want? How can my content add value to them? How much time do they have? What is their attention span?
Understanding your audience is vital, the better you know them, the better you will be able to prepare your content for them and the better you will be when you talk to them.
2. Create compelling content that adds value
Focus on adding value. This can be difficult sometimes because we all have our agenda, mission, product, or content. But as well as focusing on what you want to speak about, prepare content that speaks to your audience’s pains, fears, frustrations, irritations, wants, needs, aspirations and desires.
3. Use Storytelling
I assume that every professional has heard about the power of storytelling, yet not enough use it to their advantage. Storytelling is a terrific tool that humanity has used for thousands of years. It engages the audience, makes your content more interesting and allows the audience to discover the lesson learned. In business, you have to find the right balance - add sufficient detail, make use of vivid language and get the characters across so the audience can come with you on a journey that they won’t forget.
4. Find the WOW-factor
The wow factor is a memorable moment. When Steve Jobs revealed the first ever iPhone in 2007, he did not simply say ‘here is the new iPhone and these are the main features’. No! He used these words…
“Today, we're introducing three revolutionary products. The first one is a widescreen iPod with touch controls. The second is a revolutionary mobile phone. And the third is a breakthrough Internet communications device. So, three things: a widescreen iPod with touch controls, a revolutionary mobile phone, and a breakthrough Internet communications device. An iPod, a phone, and an Internet communicator. An iPod, a phone...are you getting it? These are not three separate devices. This is one device. And we are calling it iPhone. Today, Apple is going to reinvent the phone.”
By putting the features first and highlighting it as three different products before the ‘reveal’ that this single phone boasts all of those things, the product instantly became interesting and memorable.
5. Upgrade your PowerPoint slides
Don’t you just hate it when you are forced to look at a presentation that looks like it was designed in the 90s? With enough words to fill a novel, which the presenter just reads back to you? It is 2023 and you can find a wealth of tools, templates and design approaches online to help you create spectacular slides. I encourage you to leave old habits and beliefs behind. Say no to the ancient philosophy that a “good presentation should only have a few slides with lots of content on them”. Say no to bullet points because there are nicer ways to lay out your content. Say no to the norms of your company or industry and create spectacular slides that you and your audience love.
6. Dare to have an authentic delivery
Being authentic is a shortcut to captivating your audience and creating meaningful connections. Being an authentic speaker means recognising the parts of your personality that you’re hiding from your audience, and finding ways to allow yourself to show the real you - then you are winning!
7. Use the power of your voice
Your voice is a Ferrari so don’t just drive it in first gear. You can use your voice to put someone to sleep and not only your children. You can use your voice to scare somebody, or you can motivate someone with it. In business, you can use your voice to communicate competence, confidence and passion. To practice, start reading out loud from children’s books or a page from a compelling novel to get into ‘expressive mode’, and then move on to rather dry business content and try to hold on to the enthusiasm and emotion you used reading the books. Play with your voice to make it sound really interesting.
8. Develop a confident body language
If your body language does not send clear signals of an open, confident and positive communicator, then you are sending signals to the audience. Smile, when your content allows you to (which is a lot more often than most professionals think), have solid eye contact with your audience, use gestures, maintain a confident and open posture and move around the stage with purpose. Simple things that get you a long way.
Let me wrap up with this statement: Public speaking and presentation skills can be learned. All you need to do is to be determined to become a great communicator, be disciplined enough to study and practice the techniques and be dedicated not to give up. Do these few things consistently and you will be able to speak so your audience listens.