I´m an Award winning writer and British voice over actor, but I also founded and run The Executive Speech Expert, working with leaders across Scandinavia to ensure they make the greatest possible impact when they give a speech or presentation. However, this article can apply to anyone who needs to speak with authority and authenticity, whether you´re a voiceover artist or business person, delivering a commercial voiceover or a corporate voiceover, and whether you´re an English language speaker or speak in another language.
Every great speech, just like every great story, has a beginning, a middle, and an end. You are taking your audience on a journey. A journey that begins with one reality, and ends with another, better, brighter vision of the future.
Should you be thinking that this isn´t relevant to your end of year accounts presentation, then think again! You are not merely imparting information – or else you would send an email – you are influencing your audience in order to achieve your goal, whether that goal is becoming President of the United States of America, selling ice to the Eskimos, or instilling confidence in your shareholders with ´brilliant` end of year accounts results.
The craft of storytelling is as ancient as our first ancestors who walked the Earth alongside the Woolly Mammoth, and for just as long has provided a means to communicate complex ideas in an understandable and engaging form. We all possess this skill. We are all storytellers because it is a part of the fabric of who we are – it is in our very nature.
But – and here´s the rub – when we stand up in front of an expectant group of onlookers – our audience – something curious happens. We suddenly grow self-conscious, there is a disconnect between our brain and our body, our legs feel unsteady, our hands feel like two metal clubs, our voice becomes shaky, and we lose confidence in our own natural ability to speak.
Thankfully, over hundreds of years, techniques and methods have been developed by acting practitioners to recreate nature in the most unnatural of settings.
One of these practitioners developed a system that gave birth to what later became known as ´The Method` (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Method_acting), which has produced many of the world´s most believable actors, like Marlon Brando, Helen Mirren and Daniel Day Lewis – and if there is one vital ingredient to being a great speaker, it is ´believability`; what good is a speech if our audience don´t believe us.
There are 7 fundamental questions that an actor – whether it´s film, theatre or voiceover – should answer to prepare for a performance to help create an environment in which truth can flourish. I´ve adapted these questions and distilled them down to 5 – 5 fundamental questions to ensure your speech or presentation engages your audience and inspires them into action.
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´What do I want to achieve from my Speech?`
In other words, what is the result and effect that you want to achieve on your audience. Make it realistic, practical, and simple. As a speaker, having a clear objective gives you clarity, drive, and direction. From the audiences point of view, a story is only ever compelling if we are following a journey that has a clear goal – and that´s absolutely true for a speech too.
Examples – ´I want to make you invest in the company`, ´I want to make you feel valued`, ´I want you to vote for me`.
´Who do I need to be?`
What facets of your own personality should you utilise for this speech in order to achieve your objective. If it´s a celebratory speech, what´s required of you will be very different to if you are making a public apology. Look into your own life and find when you are closest to the characteristics you need to be. Perhaps you need to draw from the strength and determination when you play a certain sport, or is it the sensitivity and understanding as a wife or husband that will be most useful?
Examples – ´I need to be decisive, proud, and empathetic`. ´I need to be considerate, engaging, and good-humoured`.
´What are my tactics to achieve my objective?`
This might seem rather crass and manipulative, but we´re recreating what we naturally do in our everyday lives, only we don´t realise we´re doing it because it happens subconsciously. We all want something, but we don´t just go and take it. We find different approached to win over our prize. Decide on an ´action word` for every change of direction, or paragraph, in your speech. This ensures that you actively engage your audience, and creates a varied, textured and captivating delivery.
Examples – ´to charm`, ´to comfort`, ´to inspire`, ´to reassure`, ´to provoke`, ´to enlighten`.
´Why is this important now?`
Why does the audience need to hear this now. There needs to be a good reason why your speech can´t wait. If you don´t think that what you have to say is important, then your audience definitely won´t. High stakes in a story means that there is a lot to lose if the objective is not achieved. High stakes gives your speech an immediacy and a vitality, and is the fuel that drives your performance.
Examples – ´I need to make them understand this, before an accident happens`, ´I must make them feel valued, or we will lose our best members of staff`.
´What must I overcome to achieve my objective?`
The journey to achieving your goal is never a straightforward one. There are obstacles that you must overcome, and in doing so, you show your audience the strength of your leadership. As a general rule, always ´show, don´t tell`. We only see a character´s true strength until he or she is trulytested. This makes it sound very grandiose and serious, but remember that you can overcome an obstacle with humour and lightness. Being aware of what you must overcome gives you something to rally against, and as we all know, a spark is only created when a rock has something to strike against!
Examples – ´I must overcome the waning confidence amongst our investors`, ´I must overcome the culture of complacency`.
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Speech making and presenting is one of the only situations that is for the benefit of an audience, that we don´t seem to believe requires a director, or a coach, or a manager – however, in the midst of the technological age, the quality of your performance has never been more important.
When someone can film your speech on a mobile phone, post it online, and potentially generate thousands or millions of views in a matter of minutes, it can make or break your organisation´s reputation. Your preparation is VITAL. When the pressure is on and the stakes are high, your preparation is the foundation to ensure you stand firm and speak with confidence, authority, and authenticity…even if it is about presenting your end of year accounts. http://www.theexecutivespeechexpert.com