Speech Fundamentals – How to Create an Inviting and Welcoming Speech
Everyone wants to be that type of speaker – the confident, warm and popular speaker. Most, if not all, of our public speaking students, have the ideal image of a confident public speaker who not only present in a confident manner but can also reach out and engage the audience directly. The best speeches you remember are more than just rehearsed pieces. They sound almost like an effortless conversation between the speaker on stage and the entire audience.
The keyword you are looking for is charisma. To us, a charismatic speaker is someone who can make the audience feel like they are at the centre of your universe – that they matter. As a speaking trait, charisma may take a considerable time to nurture and develop. In fact, effective habit-building and consistent mindset framing are crucial to bringing out a speaker’s charismatic side. That said, we believe that by taking micro-steps in modifying your body language, you can slowly, but surely, raise the charisma value of your speech.
To start you off, we have prepared a few simple body language changes you can adopt and experiment with for your next presentation – to awake that charismatic side!
To Do #1: Get Close to the Audience
Olivia Fox Cabane, author of The Charisma Myth (Portfolio Penguin, 2012), identified three components of charisma – power, warmth and presence. The presence element cannot be understated. In our experience, the ability to connect with your audience is a premium. This entails both content and relationship connection. Balancing both aspects of your connection with the audience will be a constructive starting point to inject charisma into your speech/presentation.
For content connection, your speech/presentation should contain relevant and novel information for your audience. Drilling the same, repetitive points to your audience without regard to their interest or learning objectives is unlikely to succeed. Instead, aim to create a meaningful connection with your audience through your speech/presentation content by researching your audience’s background and their specific needs. For relationship connection, your delivery matters. Shift your focus from your speech/presentation’s content to the mode of delivery. To establish a warm and productive connection with your audience, get closer to them (both physically and metaphorically!). Make use of stage positioning to bring yourself nearer to your audience. To make your speech/presentation more dynamic, play around with your stage positioning, inching closer to your audience to emphasise an important message but moving away from them to tease their attention.
To Do #2: Welcome Your Audience with Open Arms
Your hands are a versatile tool in reaching out (get it?) to your audience members, beyond your actual words and the speech/presentation content. There are various gestures you can adopt to draw in your audience. Sales staff, for example, tend to adopt open-palm gestures to show openness and a welcoming gait. It is an intuitive way of showing that you have ‘nothing to hide’! Hand gestures are definitely a dynamic tool to incorporate into your speech/presentation!
To maximise your hand gesture potential, adopt open gestures instead of closed gestures. Open hand gestures entail moving your hands away from the frame of your body, thus enlarging your presence on stage. A simple act of just extending your hand towards your audience or opening them up (going in for a hug!) is a welcoming and reassuring sight. This is particularly effective when you are presenting in a large venue. Your hands can turn you from a speck to a powerful presence on stage. Once you have your audience’s attention, use your hand gestures to guide them through your speech/presentation as well!
To Do #3: Play with Vocal Extremes to Excite
Your voice is another powerful gateway to your audience’s mind. Playing around with your vocal pacing, pitch and power can change the strength of your connection with your audience. The key is to modulate between the extremes instead of simply fixating on one aspect. For example, instead of just raising your volume for your entire speech, transit between a progressively loud build-up to a sharp decrease for emphasis, to immediately grab your audience’s attention.
The best opportunity to play with vocal extremes is when you are sharing a story as part of your speech/presentation. You can bring your audience through the highs and lows of your story by creating vivid imagery, and latching them in for an exciting roller-coaster ride. Use a higher volume and pace-setting to build up to the climax/conflict of your story and help your audience digest the tension with a lower volume and key pauses to emphasise the learning points. Lead your audience by your hand and voice to create a dynamic and engaging environment!
Explore, Experiment and Educate Yourself
The entire process of incorporating body language is not easy. While there are common negative habits to avoid, every speaker should adopt body language that they are most comfortable with (instead of trying to artificially force their body to behave in a certain, uncomfortable manner). Finding the right habit combination may take a long time, but we hope that with the tips above, you too can start to bring out that charismatic side of yours!