Gain respect through speech

In the second of his series on public speaking and body language, Sam Cawthorn shares some of the secret ingredients that professional speakers use for instant and long-lasting respect.

Gaining respect in the greatest of times can be difficult but even more so when you’re on stage presenting – however doing so is essential to ensure likability, followability and, most importantly, influence; making a difference to the people fortunate enough to be listening to you.  It won’t surprise you to hear that one of the fastest ways to gain respect is through first impressions – people will visually judge you whether you like it or not.

So, you need to dress and act the part to suit your professional environment. My suggestion would be to always dress one step up – so, if everyone is wearing dress trousers and an open collar, you’d wear dress trousers and a tie. And, if everyone else is wearing dress trousers and a tie, you’d wear dress trousers, a tie and a business jacket. Of course, this translates to the female equivalent in terms of ladies’ formalwear. By doing this, you ensure you look better dressed than everyone in the room, and will command authority when you speak.

Once you’re in the room, it’s time for introductions and handshakes. Here, we refer to the 3C’s – confidence, competence and charisma:

  • Have confidence in who you are, and in your ability to build rapport
  • Be competent in how well you communicate and articulate
  • Ooze charisma for that instant likability factor.

Time to get up on stage. When you do, your first few lines are so important. This is because your audience will be watching every single thing you do and say, as well as how you look, in order to gauge (sometimes subconsciously) whether or not they’ll lean in and listen or lean back and log on to social media. So, make sure you’ve practiced, practiced and practiced. And it’s worth looking to create that solid likability factor in the first few lines; using light humour or even making the little joke at yourself.

Early on in the speech, get them thinking so you’re not just talking about yourself. Get straight into a thought-provoking idea or story and build up rapport before you speak about yourself.

Next, make sure your content (what you say) is congruent with your method (how you say it):

  • Your content needs to be short, sharp and straight to the point so avoid rambling, and make sure each sentence has a punch – of course, this can only be done by rehearsing. One of the greatest ways to check this is to get feedback, whether its from the mirror, your peers or a professional speaking coach.
  • With your method, ensure your tone, facial expressions, gestures and body language all relate to what you’re saying – and if you need a reminder on this, flick back to my body language-focused piece in the December/January issue.When pulling together these two factors, remember that your content is only 20 per cent of how you influence your audience – this means your method creates up to 80 per cent of the impact and, ultimately, the two must work perfectly together to create a speech that reaches the 100 per cent level.

Remember: don’t take any speech for granted. Make sure you practice and get feedback so you can polish your performance and do it again. Professional speakers can spend up to 400 hours of non-stop rehearsal time to develop an outstanding hour-long keynote presentation. But they can then deliver that speech many times over, all around the world. Of course, it’s not about becoming a professional speaker – but it is about influencing and impacting your audience.

The Expert
Sam, founder and CEO of Speakers Institute, is a globally recognised public speaker and author. He has shared the stage with influential leaders from the Dalai Lama to Richard Branson after a horrific car accident, at the age of just 26, inspired him to change his life.