How to influence others and be a potent speaker

In a two-part series Amanda Gore shares her 12 secrets on how to so you can come out swinging at your next presentation.

As an EA, there will be a time when you have to present some ideas to a group, your boss or colleagues – it’s your time to influence others. You can use these ideas for yourself – or to help your boss be a better speaker and influencer.

Or maybe you are presenting at a wedding or personal event – these secrets apply to any presentation you have to do anywhere to any number of people.

They apply to a simple conversation you are having with a child or family member in order to give them your point of view.

They also apply to anyone who wants to have more influence with people one to one or when presenting ideas. Your presentations may be more inspired with this ‘process vs only content’ approach to a presentation, meeting or interaction. Many times, people stand up and want to inspire the team but fail to do anything except tell them how passionate they are – yet if you were in the audience listening, you would never realize it.

I became a speaker after meeting Ron Tacchi at the first conference I ever presented. He listened as the MC and when I had finished said “you should be a speaker” and I said, “what’s a speaker?”  Needless to say, he had a lot of coaching to do and bless him – he did.  For the next 5 years he taught me so many things I rarely hear now.

On top of that I have been studying with Michael Grinder who is an ‘educators educator’; a master of non-verbal communication and the process of delivering content so it’s memorable and effective. He is a must to study with if you are serious about being a great speaker or a person who speaks with influence.

So here we go with the secrets!

You must have fun – even in a serious meeting

Ron drilled into me that if I have fun, the people listening will have fun. No matter how serious your content or how professional you need to be, you can always have fun. Humour bypasses objections and helps people breathe. If you can create a situation in which people can laugh the normal negative bias of the brain is bypassed and they open up to listen or learn.  If you can be self-deprecating or help them laugh at themselves it’s a great start. Jokes generally don’t work, only tell stories about your own life. If you use someone else’s story – acknowledge them.

It’s a conversation not a ‘speech’ or a ‘keynote’. The purpose is to connect,  you to them and them to each other

Think about the best speakers you have ever seen. They are the ones who seem to be talking directly to you – that’s a conversation, a heart to heart connection – not a speech.  Too many times, we focus on our ’speech’ and practice it and rehearse and re-craft it so the words are just right.

Although the words must be relevant, they are only one side of the equation.

Think about how you have a conversation with another person or a small group. It’s interactive – you speak, they listen, they speak (or think), you listen etc. So it is with you on stage, or in front of a group. Think of it as a conversation – you are ‘listening’ to their non-verbals and watching them carefully to make sure they are engaged and understanding what you are saying.

If they seem distracted – or unconscious – then either you do something, or have them do an activity or answer a question or laugh to re-engage so they feel part of the conversation.

People will remember how you made them feel

People do not remember facts and figures. And facts and figures generally don’t make people change their behaviour or thinking. They usually make people go to sleep if you show too many!

If we want to inspire or create changes or sell your ideas in some way, we must touch their hearts with stories and experiences or memories that will make them feel some positive emotion or give them the belief that they can change or do something differently.

They can (preferably) be your stories that people can relate to, or stories of others that you reference and give acknowledgment to.

Sometimes they can be Youtube clips.

You are an experience creator

A great speaker creates experiences for people. They do not deliver a ‘speech’. Experiences are living, interactive, emotion filled events, which inspire people in some way. Or just leave them feeling better.

We are all in the experience together – the more engaged you are with them – the more engaged they will be.

It’s never about you

Too many people are so focused on what they are saying and where they are in the ‘speech’ sequence or meeting presentation that if they are distracted in any way, they go blank because they can’t remember where they were in the ‘speech.’

This sort of internal focus means that we are totally disconnected from the audience who will feel it; we forget that people are never thinking about us. They are too busy wondering what you are thinking about them to be thinking about you.

So, forget about how you look and how stupid you might sound and judging yourself. If you just made a mistake or if you forgot something – just be real. The more authentic you are in this conversation, the more they will relate to you.  Help them see the value your information can be to them. Give them examples of how these ideas relate to them and can make a positive change.

Always have your focus on the audience or group

Prepare yourself before you get on stage or in front of people so that when you stand up in front of a group, you can focus totally on the audience. Take some deep breaths; use whatever technique you want to calm your nervous system.

Forget about what others will think of you and remind yourself you are there to give value and share ideas. Watch them carefully to monitor how engaged they are, what topics and issues they relate to most, to how fidgety they are, to what makes them laugh the most and keep them engaged. If you notice they are ‘wandering’ or looking disinterested you can insert an interactive exercise as simple as:

  • ‘turn to the person next to you and tell them one thing you have learned so far’
  • create an opportunity to laugh
  • ask a question
  • have them stand up and move to a different seat
  • anything that shakes their state and gets them listening again

I remember when I first started speaking, I was devastated if there was one person not joining in or laughing and I would find myself totally focused on that person, panicking because I could not get them to laugh or engage.

Until the day I had a person like that in my audience and at the end, I was convinced they hated the presentation. To my astonishment, he came up to me afterwards and said ‘that changed my life!’  Which in turn changed my life. I no longer judged people who were not very expressive in the audience.

Be original

Too many people in presentations take jokes or content from other people and make it their own material. This is a no-no – you may find something on the internet you wish to use, in which case, try to find the source and acknowledge them or say you could not find the source.

Taking a joke and adapting it as if it’s a real life story of yours is also fraught with danger if someone will have heard the joke before and you lose credibility. Life is full of funny incidences and events; look at your life for the humour or lessons. Everything that happens to me is potential material to change a mindset.

Genuine stories make you likeable, real and authentic. Being vulnerable and willing to share your mistakes or fears also touches hearts.

So now you have seven of the secrets, the rest will come in the next issue of Chief of Staff.