A tale of three speakers

I was recently at a conference with about 600 attendees and had the opportunity to hear several speakers over the course of a few days. On a scale of one to 10, my average rating for these folks was about a five or six. For the purpose of this message, I will highlight only three. All three were giving presentations that they had given many times before, so they were very familiar with their material. All three also were delivering a message that asked the audience members to take action.

Speaker 1: Rating=5

Speaker 1 started out his talk by saying he had slightly changed his message in just the past few days. He came across as only somewhat interested in his own material. He interspersed several short videos with his 40-minute talk and the videos, quite frankly, were much better than he was — there is a danger in doing this! Rather than speaking to the whole audience, he seemed more interested in pleasing the person who introduced him. He received a 50% standing ovation, led by his introducer.

Speaker 2: Rating=7

Speaker 2 had a very nice informality about him. He wore a sports coat and jeans with a nice dress shirt. He talked about his childhood and how it related to his subject for the audience. This connection worked well. He had obviously earned the right to talk about his subject. He radiated warmth and friendliness. That said, it was apparent that he was delivering a message that he had given many times before, and he came across as just a little bit bored by his own presentation.

Speaker 3: Rating=10+

WOW! Speaker 3 did not speak with a lot of volume on the noise scale; however, she was off the charts on the passion and enthusiasm scale. Her subject was very obviously deeply meaningful to her and that that depth of feeling was 100% transmitted to the audience. She constantly made a point of relating her story to the specific group she was in front of. As she was speaking, l was looking at her listeners and I can say that they were engaged — no wandering, no checking cellphones, and absolutely no side conversations while she was talking. When I talked to her later and complimented her on the power and professionalism of her message, her only response was, “I was in the zone!” Was she ever!



When Dale Carnegie wrote his book, The Quick and Easy Way to Effective Speaking, he summarized by saying that effective speakers should always be aware of and practice the three E’s:

1. Earned the right: They should have earned the right to talk about their subject by depth of experience and study. All three speakers mentioned above certainly qualified in this department. Their years of study and experience with their topics were apparent from their biographies and their presentations. However, deep knowledge of a subject does not necessarily translate to an effective presentation, as noted above.

2. Excited: They should be excited about their subject themselves. Think about it: If speakers come across as “ho-hum” or even slightly disinterested in their own material, never, ever expect their audience to be interested. The only excitement in the presentation of Speaker 1 was in the videos he showed. There was a bit of energy in Speaker 2, but the discerning eye could easily notice that this was a rerun. Speaker 3, on the other hand, without physical volume, knocked it out of the park with her “quiet excitement.”

3. Eager to communicate: This one is a little bit more subjective in the measurement category. Somehow, as an audience member, you just get a sense of the importance of the message from the presenters. If they are 100% engaged with their subject, there is a much greater likelihood that the engagement will be transferred to the audience. Of the three speakers mentioned, only Speaker 3 hit this target. By the way, she did get a spontaneous standing ovation from ALL of the audience.

In summary, whenever you have the opportunity to present, especially when you want your listeners to take action, always follow the three E’s above and your chances for success and effectiveness will increase.

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