Your job as a speaker is to …

by | Nov 22, 2013 | Marketing & Selling, Planning Your Business

David Henderson with Carma Spence
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“Your job is to make [the audience] feel like their life is better because they heard you speak.”
~ David Henderson

This past Saturday, I attended the Toastmasters District 1 Fall Conference. The keynote speaker was 2010 World Champion of Public Speaking David Henderson. What he had to say was truly inspiring and so full of good info, I knew I had to share it with you. In today’s post I’ll share his insights into the purpose of being a speaker … what your job up at the lectern is, as well as his advice for successfully performing that job.

No matter what your topic, be it purely inspiration, purely information or somewhere in between … you need to evoke the sensation of change in your audience. They need to feel that their time spent listening to you was worth their while. They need to feel transformed … even if just a little bit.

Henderson’s advice for achieving that is to tell a story. He said that your story should be personal, engage the audience emotionally and make your message stick.

A personal story is not necessarily about you, but it is one that feels real, authentic and draws your audience in. “When you tell a story really well,” Henderson said, “the audience starts thinking about themselves — that’s the point.”

Humans are emotional creatures. And because of that, we learn things better when there is an emotional component to the learning. Stories help bring emotional responses into your message. When your audience has an emotional reaction to what you are saying, they will remember it better.

Whether or not your story actually happened … in the exact manner and sequence you told it … is not the point. The critical piece is that you need to make it feel real, said Henderson.

Albert Camus once said that “Fiction is the lie through which we tell the truth.” And Alberto Giacometti said, “The object of art is not to reproduce reality, but to create a reality of the same intensity.”

When we stand before an audience, it is not our job to tell the raw, unedited, “objective” truth … it is our job to communicate the essential, emotional truth of our story. That means you need to dramatize it … fictionalize it to some degree … and emphasize those key parts of the reality that bring home the essential message.

“People want to feel something that is real,” Henderson said, “its your job to do that.” But what feels real isn’t always actually real … and what is actually real, doesn’t always feel that way. Your job is to tell the story in a way that will feel real and emotionally engage the audience.

Henderson suggests starting off with a basic feeling you want to communicate. Then, as you craft your story, ask yourself “Am I demonstrating this feeling for the audience?”

Be sure to provide context for the emotions. If your audience doesn’t understand why a character in your story experiences an emotion … you’ve lost them and the story falls flat.


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