3 OF 4 THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW TO BECOME A PROFESSIONAL SPEAKER

How to craft and deliver a speech.

As a professional speaker, preparing your speech and delivering your speech is more than standing in front of a room and speaking or reading from note cards. Often times, folks are paying you a lot of money to speak to their audience. From one audience to the next the expectations can be different, the time allotted can be different, the specific message they want you to land on can be different. For that reason, your speech ought to be expansive and big enough to address any audience while also being crafted well enough to feel like it was specifically written for whatever audience you’re in front of.

Here are some things I’ve seen work for speakers.

This one is simple and it’s not. The short answer is:

  • Authenticity: simply, be authentic
  • Flow: practice the flow of your speech
  • Vision and Intent: have a clear vision of where you want your audience to be when you’re done speaking.

For this one, we’re going to address the points above in reverse.

1. VISION AND INTENT
Every single thing that I personally I do that’s worth doing begins with a vision. To me, a vision is a statement that captures the highest possible outcome of my efforts and the impact it will have on others. Every single speaker I directly work with on preparing their speech begins that process with a stated vision and clear intentions. Here’s a question I landed on while working with speakers that I think will support you to clarify your vision and the intentions of your speech:

Think about your story. What’s the point of sharing it? Are you looking to enroll people in how hard life is? Everyone knows how hard life can be. We don’t need to be enrolled in a story of victimization — even if you were victimized. There’s a way to share a story of hardship and struggle that fully immerses audiences in the experience, takes them through it, lifts them up, and have them land on something powerful and forwarding. Are you looking to inform and educate your audience? What’s the point of sharing your presentation? Are you speaking to share how brilliant you are and have that be the only takeaway? No one cares how brilliant you are. Don’t let that be your intention. Share what you know in a way the forwards your audience and inspires them to learn more.

Have a clear vision supported by clear intentions. Your vision should be a statement about your actions and the greatest possible impact it will have on others. As an example, my vision for my life is to empower people to be the difference, now. That’s my vision for almost anything I do.

Now, your speech can and most likely will have several intentions that are rooted in your vision. Your intentions should be specific takeaways that your audience will leave with at the end of your speech. For example, my intentions with writing this series of posts are to 1) provide people with a solid framework and practical tools they can use to become professional speakers, 2) demystify the speaking industry so more people can share their compelling stories with others, and 3) help people prepare and position themselves to be professional speakers, prior to reaching out to me about becoming a speaker (that last part was 100% self-serving — all about me).

Be specific about where people will land at the end of your speech, whether it’s to inspire, inform, motivate, educate, etc. Once you have your vision and intention for your speech, create the structure and flow.

2. STRUCTURE AND FLOW
Your speech should be a dance between you and the audience. To do that you have to be keenly aware of the energy in the room. For that reason, I do not recommend writing your entire speech and reading it word for word. Instead, with your vision and intention in mind, I recommend creating stepping stones to that final speech destination. Each stepping stone will not only help tell your story in a clear and coherent manner but also work to revealing each intention you established in advanced.

Example

Stepping Stone 1: Introduce myself as a credible and genuine person
Stepping Stone 2: Share about my upbringing in X and the overwhelming love in my family despite X
Stepping Stone 3: Using the story of X loss I will share how life can change in a moment
Stepping Stone 4: Sharing the story about difficult choice X will demonstrate the benefit of making the empowered choice despite a difficult circumstance
Stepping Stone 5: Use story X to show how by not focusing on what one does not have but instead focusing on what one can do makes it possible to create extraordinary results

Take a look at a pro at work using his stepping stones to touch on each point and landing the audience exactly where he wants them.

Martin Sheen speaking at WeDay

Resource: Story2 has a writing method they teach called the “Moments Method.” The basis of their company is to teach people to write by telling their unique and personal stories out loud. A part of their process emphasizes taking your story from overarching experiences that take place over a long period of time (i.e. playing an instrument, being a professor, being deployed to a war zone, etc.) to specific stories that took place at a given moment in time that revealed who you are, what you can be counted on for, and shows a clear moment of growth or understanding.

An example of an experience vs. a moment is Medal of Honor recipient Florent Groberg story. Groberg served in the armed forces for many years, which is an experience, because serving in the armed forces takes place over a long period of time. His speech, however, is tailored around the moment he tackled a suicide bomber to the ground who was approaching military leaders he was escorting in Afghanistan. He then fleshes out the story to reveal who he was in the process. In doing so, Groberg shares about his internal dialogue, the dialogue with his unit, he paints a picture of the empty streets, and the moment everything went from an eerily calm and quiet stroll to an all-out assault on his unit sparked by the suicide bomber he tackled to the ground and killed.

Story2’s process is similar to other processes in many respects, but what sets them apart is that each piece of writing begins with a video or audio recording of the story being shared. The reason that matters is that the storyteller’s authentic voice is captured, their unique perspective is revealed, and more times than not the story feels like it’s moving seamlessly from one stepping stone to another.

3. AUTHENTICITY
There are many programs that teach you the art of public speaking, you know, project your voice, pace the stage with purpose, scan the audience, this, that, and the other. Those tools can be useful but there’s no more effective way to be an exceptional speaker than being authentic.

Being authentic does not mean being unprepared or unrehearsed. It means, once you’ve done everything to set yourself up to win, you choose to be present to what’s coming up for you and your audience as it relates to your speech, your life, or their life and authentically share your presentation from that place. When you’re authentic you invite your audience to dance with you in the emotions, joys, facts, hardships, and humor of your presentation. If you’re not authentic they’re most likely going to hate the presentation and pretend (like you were) that your presentation meant something other than it did.

Why does this matter?

Here’s why:
Once a speaker is with an agency, the majority of repeat business comes from the agent’s confidence that you’re going to make sponsors happy. If you come across as someone who’s inauthentic, chances are that’s going to translate to not-so-great reviews from the audience. The sponsor will pass that information on to the agent. The agent will book to less and less. Conversely, if you knock it out of the park and you occur as authentic, chances are the reviews will reflect that. The agent to receive those reviews and book you more and more.

There are really no tips or tools to authenticity. It is simply something you choose.

So have a clear vision and intentions for your speech; using your story, create stepping stones toward that vision, and be authentic. In doing so, you’ll have a solid foundation from which to craft and present your speech.

As always, if you have any questions leave it in the comment section.

"I just want to have a kickass time and live in service to God's will." -Rainn Wilson

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