Speaking at a Conference? Don’t forget these 4 things

VolumeSo you're speaking at a conference? Awesome. But as you likely know, 90% of what you'll share will be forgotten in days (and in some cases hours). So how do you make an impact? How do you stand out from all the other presenters and deliver an amazing talk that will be talked about for days or weeks after you've delivered it?

I know – you're thinking you need to go to a class on public speaking. It might help. Maybe. But maybe not.

Or you're thinking I'm going to tell you that you need great photos – because I regular talk about slides on this blog. Nope, not going to go there.

Instead, I want to share with you four things you have with you everywhere you go – and how they can help you.

Use your voice's VOLUME

I know you know this, but you don't need to use one volume level for the entire talk. People's brains are automatically wired for change. If something changes, they can't help it – their eyes will pop up and look at you. Try it. While speaking, get real quiet – or stop talking all-together. Watch the eyes as they all shift up to you to see what's going on.

The brain is wired for change. So change your volume. Between me and you – you're not Al Pacino anyway. So yelling all your lines won't be your thing. Shift things up.

Want to tell your audience a secret? Get quiet. Want to complain (or act like someone who complains)? Shout.

Use your voice's SPEED

Just like you can use your voice's volume to change things up and cause people to pay attention, you can do the same by shifting pace. Talk fast. Talk slow. They mean different things.

If you want to build to a main point, a crescendo of sorts, speed up your preamble. If you want to make a point, slow things down and even repeat them.

You can even slow the pace of your talk without slowing your speech. Here's how I do it. I share what I'm going to share (“this morning I want to talk about xx”). But before starting, I interrupt myself – in effect postponing my point. But it's another change. And the brain reacts to changes like a drug. It's addicted. So I'll say, “before I get to that, let me ask you this question…”. I've slowed things down without slowing my speaking pace.

Use your body to bring the ENERGY

If people watch me speak more than once, they often remark about how much I use my hands, arms, and even my whole body to step forward or step back to accent a point. But here's why I do it. It's a dynamic I call mirroring (I'm sure there's an official name).

Have you ever watched a movie in a theater and laughed hysterically? Then you bring it home and you watch it again and you don't laugh the same way? It's because it's easier to laugh if people around you are laughing.

The same is true for other dynamics. If I bring high energy, my audience raises their energy. If I get slow and lethargic, my audience mirrors my energy level. That's why I bring a lot of energy to a talk (almost as much as my friend Tony Perez).

One way I engage people to test how well mirroring is in effect is to ask a question. I'll say, “raise your hand if you've ever ….” and then I raise my hand. It's an easy way to see if people are engaged and matching my energy.

Use your life's STORIES

I know people like to share facts. But facts are boring. They put us to sleep. They're hard to remember. In fact, I'm likely to get them wrong 30 minutes after you're done talking. But my brain is wired for stories. So is yours. So share any insight by wrapping it into a story. The stories that have you in them – the personal ones (even failures) – are the best. People often walk up to me years after hearing me speak and will share with me what I talked about – even 2 or 3 years later. But it's not because I shared some incredible facts. It's because they connected with a story (probably one of my many failures).

So there it is. The four things you bring with you everywhere you go. The easy things you can adjust to immediately create a better impression and a stronger engagement as you speak.

Was it helpful? Tell me in the comments section below. 

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Chris Lema
Chris Lema has been working with WordPress since 2005. Over the years he's been a blogger, a speaker at WordCamps, a coach for WordPress product companies, and the founder of the conference for WordPress business owners, called CaboPress. Today he's the VP of Products at Liquid Web, where he manages the world's first managed platform for WooCommerce stores.

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