Source: This article was originally published on CNBC.
Written by: Courtney Connley, CNBC Make It
Public speaking can be frustrating, anxiety-producing, or, for some, downright terrifying. Should you rehearse a ton, and risk sounding scripted?
Should you speak off the cuff, and risk getting tongue-tied? There are tons of public speaking factors to consider—including the size and temperament of your intended audience—and it can be tough to know what tone to strike, especially in a situation where you suspect you’ll be nervous.
No matter the nature of your message or the size of the crowd, there’s one fool-proof public speaking tip that can help anyone deliver a great speech: Speak from the heart.
Ten years ago, I was gearing up to speak at a leadership conference in Toronto, Canada, as part of an international book tour. There were 5,000 people in the audience.
I’d been on the road for eight weeks, I missed my husband and my kids. I was exhausted. I should have gone home. The book I was promoting was all about creating a life with balance, but admittedly, my own life had gotten away from me.
As I walked out on the stage, I looked at the audience and thought, I just can’t do this. I’ve got nothing left. I heard myself asking for a chair, and when it arrived, I sat down in the middle of the stage. Rather than delivering my carefully-crafted speech, I just started to speak from my heart. I told the crowd, I was supposed to talk to you today about work-life balance, but here’s the truth: I’ve kind of lost mine.
I delivered the key parts of my prepared speech, but my words were fortified with more authenticity, pain, and humor than usual. To my surprise, it was my most successful speech ever. I learned a valuable lesson that day, a speaking persona, no matter how impressive, builds a wall between you and your audience. My advice: If you have one, kiss it goodbye. Instead, you should compose every speech as if you are presenting your ideas to friends. Assume intimacy, assume trust. And then talk that way.
This advice is not a license to wing your next public speaking engagement. Your presentation still needs great content, data, and stories. But keep in mind that people don’t respond to slides or concepts or polished delivery—they respond to people. They respond to real people.
Whether you’re speaking to an audience of 5,000 or five, take down the wall and open a door, the audience will walk right in.
Suzy Welch is the co-founder of the Jack Welch Management Institute and a noted business journalist, TV commentator, and public speaker. Through its online MBA program, the Jack Welch Management Institute transforms the lives of its students by providing them with the tools to become better leaders, build great teams, and help their organizations win.