If you’ve followed my journey for a bit, you may have seen video of me speaking at TEDx at the University of Nevada, Reno in January 2015.
Awesome moment and I wouldn’t trade the timing of it for anything in the world.
But I look back at it and think, “Man – I was so timid up there, so stiff, so memorized…”
As of today, I’ve spoken at 75+ businesses, schools and events. I’ve come a long way – I’m much more comfortable speaking in front of large audiences now and I embrace the opportunity to share with strangers.
In a 16-day span in March 2017, I spoke at 10 different events to more than 1,500 people total – the flow I felt speaking at event after event was euphoric. I felt comfortable, I felt home.
My transition & growth has taken a ton of time, sacrifice & dedication – but it’s been amazing to live out.
That all being said, some aspiring speakers, public figures and people who speak in front of crowds (coaches, managers, etc.) have seen my growth and asked for some essential points of improvement.
Here are some things I’d recommend you focus on regarding improving your impact as a public speaker:
(I’ve omitted some of the more obvious things that you can find through online searches – like stage presence, body language, varying your tone of speech, etc):
Just be genuine. A big mistake I made when I was starting off was trying to sound like guys who I had seen speak before. I tried to mimic what they said & how they said it…it didn’t sound authentic and people took notice of that.
The closer I moved to who I truly was and spoke what was truly on my heart, the more effective I’ve become. It’s interesting how people can see right through you. If you’re trying to fool someone into thinking you’re someone you’re not, people can see that and can tune you out real quick.
Be authentic, tell your story the way you want to, and be real. If you’re not a loud guy, don’t be loud. Plenty of great speakers keep a straight ton of speech. If you’re not a body language dude, don’t do that.
Just be you, do you and you will shine.
The deeper you know your content, the more you can speak with power and authority. This is a big reason why so many people we repeatedly see on TV or in the media are so convincing – because they have authority over their subject matter.
We can be talking to someone who is saying something we completely disagree with, but their authority over that subject makes them believable.
Once you learn how to have authority in your words, you can lead an audience wherever you want to go.
I make it a goal to lock eyes with every single person in a room when I speak. This is obviously a challenge when you’re talking to hundreds of people and I have no way of telling if I actually did it, but locking eyes with people, pointing at them, talking directly to them, it makes them truly feel you.
I’ve had multiple people message me after one of my speeches and tell me they felt when I looked in their eyes. Trust me, engagement is difficult. Most people are tired of hearing the same old speakers with the same old messages.
If you can get a room to be engaged with you, you’ve won.
This is probably one of the, if not THE biggest key to my success. Connecting with people is interesting. Obviously, not everyone in your audience will feel relatable to you.
But the way I connect with people is through story telling. I tell them different aspects of my story and 99% of the time, they find something in my story that relates to them. It can be the fact that they’re a minority, they’re the first in their family to be in college, they’re from a broken home, they were poor, they have a handicap, etc.
I also do it through the way I speak – I use a lot of cultural references in my presentations to bring something that people are already seeing in real life (like memes, social trends or famous videos) and relate it to a life lesson.
I also do it through the way I dress. If I’m talking to a high school, sometimes I’ll come in with my Kobe’s & a nice V-neck. If I’m talking to a group of higher education professionals, I might throw on a nice polo and dress shoes. I purposefully choose my attire to fit who I’m talking to and I don’t dress up in a suit. This is a personal choice of mine because I know that many times, young people hear from people who are in suits and well dressed. It’s difficult to envision yourself in a suit when you come from a poor family. So I come dressed how they’re dressed to show them that it’s possible to come from where they come from and be successful.
I reach them on their level, connect with them and bring them up to new levels. Again, this gets back to the whole authenticity thing. I’m just being more of me and people are attracted to that. Being relatable is a massive key.
If people find something in you that they can relate to, they will hang on your every word.
I purposefully challenge people throughout my presentation. I’m honest with them about how they’re behaving because I know most of them aren’t giving life their all.
I know because I was in their shoes and still am. I challenge people hard and am very honest with them because I want them to experience tough love.
One of my best qualities is that I can express love through challenging people to be better.
Once I learned that I could push people without them running away from me, I keyed into that and began to push more and more. People see that I authentically love them and care for their success, so they allow me into their hearts and allow me to push their buttons.
It’s important to challenge people to leave your presentation greater than they are because once they return to their everyday lives, they will most likely revert to their same old behaviors.
Call them out with authentic love and challenge them to be better.
You’re being asked to speak to people for a reason – because you are a master of something. It’s easy to get the urge to overwhelm people with your knowledge. I’ve made this mistake a few times and saw that people weren’t as engaged.
Keep things simple and easy for people to understand. When you’ve gotten them to understand, then you can lead them to the action(s) you want them to take.
Be clear & simple.
I’ve spoken at probably 75+ schools, businesses, conferences & organizations at this point. I can tell you for fact that I get better with each one.
It’s like an athlete and practice. The best of the best put in the reps in practice to become masters of their craft. I’m practicing my speaking so much in real life, on video and on my podcast, that when big opportunities come, I’m ready. Just get out there and perform.
The more you know your material, the more confident you will be in what you say.
I can’t emphasize enough that I’m still learning as I grow. Every time I connect with a new school or new student – always learning.
My “keys” to speaker success may be different 1 year from today.
What’s held you back as a speaker? Or what’s propelled you to success? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.