7 Pieces of Advice for Becoming a Great Speaker

Spending the last week at the National #SHRM19 conference with 20,000 plus people provided the opportunity to see and hear a lot of speakers across a diverse group of topics and styles.   

As I reflect on what made some stand out over others, I find this list of advice helpful to myself as a speaker and hopefully to you too, regardless of the size of the audience or the subject you may find yourself addressing: 

  1. Pictures and stories are worth 1000 words. If you can illustrate with a picture or a story, don’t put the words on a slide. No one reads a bunch of words on a slide.  The fewer slides and the less content on the slide, the better.  
  2. Establish your legitimacy and expertise through your content, not through bragging on or touting yourself.   I heard one guy say to begin his presentation, “I have thousands of clients, both national and international.  I consult all over the world on this stuff.” I almost tuned him out there and then ended up walking out of his presentation because the delivery of his content was mind-numbingly boring and the slides had so much jumbled information on them, it was impossible to follow. 
  3. Don’t sell your topic during your presentation. People have already shown up for the topic. Give them what you’ve promised you’d deliver by sticking to the topic you advertised you’d be speaking about. 
  4. Get to the point. Talk about what people came to hear, but make sure you give background info to frame your point when needed.  There is a delicate balance of making sure you provide context to people who may not know much about the topic compared to those who may be in the room that is seasoned on the topic.  Balance providing context without boring the experts.
  5. Engage the audience in some way through discussion, social media activity, writing and or personal reflection exercises with a partner. 
  6. Provide tactical things people can actually go back to the office and do/apply. 
  7. Follow-up with resource materials and slides to your audience via email or through the appropriate conference channels. 

 

What have speakers you’ve seen done that made them stand out as a great speaker? 

Mary Ila Ward

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