In a competitive business environment every business owners need to:
1) Keep raising their profile, and
2) Inspire others to make changes and take action.
To help you do this, we asked award-winning speaker, Simon Bucknall to reveal the practical steps you can take to raise your profile by public speaking and to share his Quick Start Guide for an Inspirational Speech which will help you to impress customers and inspire your team.
“On my last holiday, I came to realise that our company’s biggest obstacle to growth… is me.”
“In what way?” I said.
“Well, we’ve been in business for 10 years. We’re profitable. We’ve got a strong team and great clients. But…”
“As the Founder, I need to get out there more. I need to bang the drum and inspire audiences. Otherwise we’ll miss a huge opportunity – and as a business, we’ll plateau.”
“So, what’s the problem?”
“I’ve no idea how to do it!”
Over the years, I’ve worked with business professionals wanting to improve their speaking skills for all sorts of reasons.
- They want to feel more confident.
- They want to drive sales.
- They want to secure promotion.
- They want to demystify a complex topic and much, much more.
But when you boil it down, for the small business owner, I suggest three simple truths stand out;
1. The power of public speaking
First, public speaking is a powerful way in which to raise the profile of your company and, ultimately, win business.
I know of a very successful small financial advisory firm, for example, which has a marketing budget of zero. What they have instead is a founder who delivers content-rich keynote speeches to target-rich audiences week-in, week-out.
2. The limitations of public speaking
Secondly, contrary to popular belief, public speaking is a poor medium for achieving knowledge transfer.
Think of it instead as a tool for driving change – in how audience members think, feel and act.
3. The ability to inspire is key
Thirdly, if you’re serious about driving change, one skill stands above all others in importance – your ability to inspire others.
That’s because if you want to drive change in behaviour, you have to inspire people “to” something… and no, that doesn’t mean having to punch the ceiling to the beat of motivational music!
The trouble is that many business leaders write themselves off as not having inspirational potential.
They assume that in order to inspirational, you need to have some natural gift. It’s a talent – you’ve either born with it or you’re not. As if Steve Jobs were a ‘natural’. (In fact, he worked incredibly hard on his presentations to achieve the impact he did).
Others believe you need to have some remarkable accomplishment – a Nobel Prize perhaps… an Olympic gold medal… or a track-record of having built a billion pound business from scratch.
3 Steps to becoming inspirational
The truth is that the ability to inspire is a skill and it can be learned.
But it does take the right kind of practice.
I’ve seen inspirational impact achieved by people in the most unlikely settings – prisoners in jail, teenage troublemakers (turned good), charity workers, doctors and, yes, small business owners.
So, if you’re still with me, let’s look at how to achieve it.
At its core, think of the creation of an inspirational speech as comprising three key steps.
STEP 1 – Start with change
Consider what your presentation is really about.
No, it’s not about memorising a script.
No, it’s not about dazzling people with your knowledge.
No, it’s not about introducing your company and telling them all about you.
It’s about driving change.
So, what is that change?
Years ago, participating in a workshop in Phoenix, USA with three former World Champions of Public Speaking, they posed the question;
How do you want to change the way your audience thinks, feels or acts?
This is a great place to start when building an inspirational speech, because without change, the whole process is a complete waste of time.
What might your speech mean for them?
How might it be applicable to them?
You may have a number of answers to the above. That’s fine. But get clear on what those changes are because inspiration is dynamic.
You may want them to stay strong in the face of adversity. Perhaps you want them to rethink the way they view their expertise. It may be you simply want them to pick up the phone more often!
Once you’re clear on your desired change, everything else becomes much, much easier.
STEP 2 – Identify key points / messages
Time now for you to ask yourself a second question:
What are the 1, 2 or 3 key points/messages which will best achieve that change?
Clarity on this is absolutely critical.
When you look at the rainmakers across so many aspects of life, whether in sport, religion, politics or indeed business, there’s no magical recipe of experience. Their life experiences are wonderfully diverse.
What they all have is clarity.
Clarity on what they believed.
Clarity on the messages, values and ideas that mattered.
Let’s face it – if you’re not clear, how can you expect your audience to engage? A lack of clarity breeds confusion and in my experience, it’s very hard to inspire people who are confused.
The conviction with which you hold that point also matters. Audiences are remarkably sensitive to whether a speaker believes in what they’re saying. I suggest that if you’re half-hearted, you stand little chance of winning the hearts and minds of your audience too.
Consider for a moment the change you want to achieve (from Step 1).
What points/messages or ideas would you need to land with your audience for that change to become likely – or even possible?
Make a long-list of contenders.
When you’ve done that, prune each point to 10 words maximum.
Yes, these points should be simple!
Keep them single-minded.
Some years ago, I was coaching a health and safety professional in the marine transport sector.
His challenge was to engage (and inspire to action) freelance contractors who frequently ignored his briefings.
Yes, it really was that simple. Five seconds to double-check before… five minutes to assess whether…
So simple – even I remember it 8 years later!
Of course, a clear message alone isn’t enough – but it is indispensable.
STEP 3 – Identify stories
Reflecting on your chosen points, consider your response to the third and final question;
What’s the most compelling evidence you could show to support those key points?
Of course, a host of data, rational evidence, diagrams and more may immediately come to mind. But the real value of this question lies in prompting you to think about relevant life/work experience.
Storytelling is often dismissed as being soft, too fluffy, too unrepresentative (when compared to rational data). In practice, a good story is perhaps the most powerful tool at the inspirational speaker’s disposal.
Stories are the gold.
They establish credibility; they’re easier to listen to; they bring your ideas to life.
In the case of the health and safety professional, he told the story of the friend of his. Driving his car, he glanced down for a few seconds to send a text. By taking his eyes off the road, he veered off into a tree, triggering a life-changing accident.
“Take five. Because when it comes to health and safety, even 5 seconds makes all the difference.”
Stories are impossible to argue against, provided they’re based on first-hand experience. They’re also much easier to deliver – and emotionally connect on a different level from mere data.
The trick is to ensure that the stories you use are in direct support of a point you’re making.
If you apply these simple steps when preparing your next presentation, you’ll find it reduces the time needed to develop the content. It keeps you focused on the needs of your audience – this alone will differentiate you from many speakers in business!
Through storytelling, I suggest you’ll also be far more engaging than if you revert to mere bullet points on slides.
Preparing before you speak
One final thought – when preparing, many people make the mistake of wasting hours gazing at their script or slide deck. Others battle their way through rehearsals – in empty rooms or in front of the bathroom mirror.
Instead, I suggest you have some conversations.
Yes, book lunch or a coffee with a trusted friend/colleague of yours. Talk them through your content (don’t ‘deliver’ it) and see how they react. You’ll gain clarity by familiarising (not memorising) yourself with your content in this way. Their reaction will also give you invaluable feedback.
Who knows, you might even enjoy the process.
Quick Start Guide for an Inspirational Speech
So, to summarise what you need to do to deliver inspirational talks, here’s my Quick Start Guide;
1. How do you want to change the way your audience thinks, feels and/or acts?
2. What are the 1, 2 or 3 key points which will best deliver/achieve that change?
3. What’s the most compelling evidence you could show to support those points?
4. Have conversations about your speech with trusted friends/colleagues.
5. Map out your flow on a single page.
About the author
This article has been written exclusively for ByteStart by Simon Bucknall. Simon was the runner-up in the 2017 Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking. Toastmasters International is a non-profit educational organisation that teaches public speaking and leadership skills through a worldwide network of meeting locations. With 300+ clubs in the UK and Ireland with over 7,500 members you can find your local club at www.toastmasters.org
More help on perfecting presentations, pitches and talks
You can find lots more tips to help you deliver winning presentations, pitches and and talks in these other ByteStart guides;
- Harness the “Power of Three” to nail your pitch
- How to deliver ‘rocking’ presentations and pitches that will captivate your audience
- The 3 Golden Principles of public speaking
- Using the power of your body language to deliver show-stopping speeches and presentations
- Perfecting your pitch: 10 Principles for entrepreneurs
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