Many of you have likely had the great opportunity to attend a commencement ceremony. I had the wonderful privilege of attending my grandson’s college graduation. Occasions like this are always filled with so much joy. The cheers and excitement from family and friends are simply palpable as the graduates are being honored for their achievement. My eyes were filled with tears as my loved one walked across the stage to receive his degree; it’s an exhilarating moment to witness.
However, as we all know, waiting to get to this moment can be long and arduous, as we must sit and listen to lots of speakers—some who are good and some who are not. These speakers are tasked with giving speeches that match the occasion, speeches that will inspire and motivate the next generation of graduates as they embark on a new chapter in their lives. Out of the many speakers, I find there is usually one or two that demonstrate the ability to connect with the audience and stand out above the rest. They use the basic presentation skills that are taught in many of our Langevin courses.
Here are seven of the presentation skills that good speakers use that make them memorable:
1. Volume – You can hear them! Microphones are typically used at large events, but not everyone knows how to use them properly. If the audience cannot hear you, you will definitely lose them. This could result in side-bar conversations and your speech not being heard.
2. Voice Inflection – They are not using a monotone voice! They understand how to change their pitch and tone, making them pleasing to listen to.
3. Pace – Whoa, not so fast - or - yawn, are we there yet? A good speaker has a nice even pace filled with variety. They know when to move it along, when to slow it down, and when to powerfully pause.
4. Gestures – Although speakers are often standing behind a podium, gestures can still be used. The use of appropriate gestures is very effective when engaging the audience.
5. Eye Contact – A skilled speaker knows how to use eye contact to connect with a large audience and still glance at their notes without most of their attention focused on reading.
6. Humor and Smiling – Appropriate humor and a warm smile can be contagious and a great way to hook a large audience.
7. A Meaningful and Relevant Message – The most powerful speeches are those that communicate a message that is meaningful and appeals to people on a cognitive and emotional level. They are also clear, concise, and not twenty minutes too long!
Public speaking is still the number one fear most people have. I applaud anyone who faces this fear and does it anyway. The presentation skills listed above are taught our Facilitation Skills for New Facilitators and Professional Presentation Skills workshops. People take these courses because they realize good speaking skills are the foundation of being an effective course leader and presenter. Hopefully we will see you in one of our courses soon. Who knows, you might be asked to speak at a graduation or some other special event, and, if you do, you’ll want to make it memorable!