People often ask me how to inspire people in a speech. They ask cautiously, carefully, as if it’s something they should be ashamed to be wanting to know. They ask as if it’s an evil kind of magic like a love potion, that would give them an advantage in love and life that they don’t feel they deserve…
They’re really asking how they can be the kind of speaker that they love. Martin Luther King, Winston Churchill, Abraham Lincoln, for example. No one ever asks to be George W Bush, or Nick Clegg do they? I’m happy to say that it’s easy to become an inspiring speaker, if you have two things-
- Empathy for your audience
- The courage to be honest and open yourself up to the risk people might reject you
Once you’ve got those things, the techniques of inspiring a group of people, deliberately making them feel something, and directing their attention towards those feelings is so simple that a child can do it. In fact your kids do it all the time.
- ‘I’m so happy, thank you’- accompanied by boundless, joyful smiles and hugs.
- ‘I saw this amazing thing on YouTube, Dad’- followed by a vivid description of a man hitting himself in the face with an alligator, or some such craziness.
- ‘I made this for you, bacause I love you’ – cue a 6-year-old handing over 3 beautiful plasticine models of him, and his 2 brothers that still stand on my window sill, above my workspace now.
- ‘I’m really cross about this…’ accompanied by the body language, tiny balled fists and facial expressions of a kid who is so obviously, openly, cross about something that you want to find out what it is.
It’s really easy to get all caught up in the technical skills of presenting, and important too if you’re on telly, but if you’re presenting at work, remember that most people just want you to be interesting, relevant and brief.
Five Ways to Inspire Your Audience
- Point to the top of another mountain- Tell stories, give examples and case studies from other industries and lives, to show what’s possible for people like us- you deal in hope don’t you?
- Make a claim, back it up with data- Use some well-judged facts and evidence to support your points- not just opinions masquerading as facts. Particularly with hostile audiences.
- Be straight with them- Give your opinions, honestly, openly and present these as opinions not facts, people like to know where you stand, even if they disagree.
- Make them cry, make them laugh do anything but make them feel something- Leave the emotion in. Don’t take emotion out because we think it’s the ‘professional’ thing to do. Triumph, tragedy, disaster, adversity poked in the eye, it’s all fantastic.
- Don’t tell heroic stories only about yourself- Much better to raise someone else up and leave yourself on the floor than spend 2 hours making yourself look fantastic which tends to leave your audience on the floor.
It’s not difficult to inspire others, we just need to understand them, their dreams and the things that give them hope. Great motivational speakers do this all the time. And every speech that they make, whatever the audience, asks a simple question of each and every listener. The question….
What are you capable of?
So in the shortest possible way, if you want to hypnotise, inspire and move audiences, ask them to imagine what they are capable of as the very best version of them.