How to get your message across

The most impressive speakers make you feel like you are the only other person in the room – and it’s all about empathy

Get your message across

A common challenge we all face with public speaking is ensuring that the message lands with the people listening. Take heed of Monica Lunin’s five public speaking hacks and turn the challenge into an opportunity

Whether you are delivering a professional presentation or an inspirational speech, you need your audience to tune in and understand. But there are many factors that might cause your message to bounce off in unintended directions. Your job as speaker is to minimise that diffraction and ensure, as much as possible, that the message you intend is the message that is received.

It can be a tricky, subjective business but these five techniques will help you get your message across in any situation.

Start and finish strong

First impressions matter and final impressions linger. People may lose the thread somewhere in the messy middle so make sure you structure a clear introduction and conclusion. Your opening should include a hook to grab the attention and harness the interest of the audience. Plan it first, then land it with confidence. Your closing should deliver satisfaction, fulfilling the promise you set out at the start.

Make a connection

The most impressive speakers make you feel like you are the only other person in the room – and it’s all about empathy. Forming a personal connection is not just a nice feeling, it draws the audience to you thus creating rapt attention. When people feel a connection, they are more receptive to your point of view. Practice making eye contact – we speak to eyes and ears, not over the top of people’s heads and not to your slides. If you are not looking at another human, you should not be talking!

Work with the energy in the room

Before you speak, consider what the dominant attitude, tone or energy level is in the room. What happened immediately before you take your turn might that impact the mood, for example. If people are exhausted, inject new energy with some form of engagement or even movement. If they are distracted and unruly, make your mark to encourage focus. Try having the music gradually increase in volume then suddenly stop – you will find silence descends and you may begin. Remember, there is no sense in trying to force your message on a crowd that is not primed to receive.

Never apologise

Too many speakers begin with an apology: “I will only take a few moments of your time” or “I’m sorry we are a bit behind schedule” or “I know you want to get out of here soon but…” This is a mistake! It does nothing to improve understanding and it may even trigger pity – the death knell for any speaker. The audience feeling sorry for you is just another thing getting in the way of them really hearing what you have to say. This is a pervasive presentation pitfall but easy to overcome, simply stop apologising and speak from a position of strength and confidence.

Embellish your message

For every point you make, think about what you might add to bring it to life. Could you use a metaphor, anecdote or example to create deeper understanding? Greta Thunberg brings climate change to life with the metaphor of a house on fire whilst Martin Luther King Jnr wraps his ideas in the metaphor of a dream. As with these examples, you need to make sure that whatever device you use is relevant and appropriate to your central idea. A simple place to start is with your own personal experience – use a story to make a concept real.

Monica Lunin is a communications expert, speaker and writer. She co-owns MOJOLOGIC, a consultancy that specialises in developing communication, influence and leadership
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