Powerful Words: How to Be a Captivating Public Speaker

A Captivating Public Speaker

A good speaker, be it at a conference, after dinner at an awards ceremony, or via a traditional platform like TedX, holds a lot of power in their hands. 

The right words, delivered well, have the ability to move us to tears, shake us with laughter or make us stop in our tracks and think deeply about an area of life that we have never before contemplated. Words quite literally shape our thinking and can stay with us long after the talk is over. 

Empathetic, relatable and passionate after dinner speakers* will make you feel as if you are walking their path alongside them. They will make you see life from a different perspective. And when a warm and honest orator takes to the stage, you will not hear a single pin drop. There will be no need to hush the audience, for they will be utterly captivated.

Whilst we can all hone our speaking skills and improve how we deliver our message with practice, I do believe that the desire to want to get up and overshare our personal stories in front of strangers is probably due to some innate personality trait. But the ability to do that in a way that audiences want to keep hearing is truly an honour and a blessing. 

Sally Phillips is a brilliant after dinner speaker

Fantastic Teacher

I had an amazing teacher and coach in my brilliant and beautiful friend Sally PhillipsDS Mum, campaigner, comedian, writer and actor, Sally is an utterly brilliant speaker. 

From challenging medics on their stance towards antenatal screening, to creating a state of the nation documentary about Down's syndrome to making a room full of bankers erupt with laughter at a glitzy, if boozy, industry awards 'do'. Not only is she a pro, but she's generous enough to share her tips and the occasional one liner with me.

Far more amateur in comparison, I stumbled on the fact that I enjoyed public speaking by accident and it is truly humbling to know that people are moved by your words. It comes with a certain responsibility though, to always be authentic and trustworthy. 

Natty is my motivation and muse.
One day she will do the public speaking for herself.

Accidental Public Speaker

Reading my blog post What to Say When a Baby is Born with Down's Syndrome at Britmums Live Blog Event was my first ever public speaking engagement. I was terrified, facing a room filled with bloggers, authors and journalists. But my nerves turned to heartfelt passion as I began to read, and suddenly I realised that I could see people wiping their eyes in the audience. 

People were in tears and at the standing ovation it was my tears that flowed too. I remember being hugged from all direction and thinking that facing my fears had paid off, and if I never spoke in public again, that one event had made a difference to the way some key influencers thought about my daughter's condition.

But I did speak again, sometimes along with my daughters. After dinner at charity events, blog conferences, medical training, TV and radio interviews, sometimes live in a studio, sometimes via link-up and then ultimately the honour of my life, a TedX talk.

Sharing our story at TedX event was a huge honour

The Covid pandemic changed everything for a while of course, but with restrictions easing the market is opening up for after dinner speakers again and I can't wait to get back to what I love. 

I often get asked for tips on doing talks, from Ted Talks to chatting to groups of local school children, my advice is the same.

My Tips for Public Speakers

  • Think about your audience carefully. Target your subject matter to their interests, needs and level of understanding. 
  • Be authentic and honest. People will take you more seriously if you are warm and genuine, even if that means showing your emotions and your weaknesses to them. 
  • Decide what your main message is and stick to your key points. Don't hurry or waffle your way through but speak with passion and emotion, as if to a dear old friend.
  • Your words count and they have the ability to change the way people think, so choose them carefully. Craft them and rework them in your mind until you are happy with the way they will be heard. 
  • Never get over confident, or forget what an honour it is for people to give up their time to listen to you. You are only as good as your last talk.

Nothing about us without us: My girls often share their lived experiences too.

  • Don't learn your talk parrot fashion and don't read from a script either. You know your stuff, so a few prompts will guide you through in a natural sounding way.
  • Try using visual aids or props to highlight your story and capture listeners' attention.
  • I like to alter the pace in my talks. You can change the mood from jovial to serious and back again in a heart beat and it will have more of a memorable impact.
  • Be professional and respectful at all times, genuinely care about your audience who have given up their time to listen to you.
  • Most importantly have fun and enjoy what you are doing. Public speaking truly is the best feeling in the world!

* This post contains a link to The Speakers Agency for which I was paid for my time.  

1 comment:

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