The Power Of Contrast In Your Next Speech

by drjim on August 23, 2016

To capture your audience's imagination, you need to change things up

To capture your audience’s imagination, you need to change things up
Image Credit: ImagineCup

One of my favorite experts in the world of making presentations is lady named Nancy Duarte. She runs a company called Duarte Inc which specializes in helping presenters get their message across using great visuals and she really understands the importance of public speaking. The company’s biggest claim to fame so far is that they created the slides that Al Gore used during his famous “An Inconvenient Truth” speeches. Nancy knows how to grab and hold an audience’s attention and she’s not shy about telling us how to do it.

Know Your Audience

How do you go about preparing a speech that you are going to be giving to an audience? If you are like most of us, you run off to your hole (house, apartment, room, computer, etc.) and just start pounding out what you think will be a great speech. As you can see by some of the less than spectacular results that you’ve probably gotten, this is not the best way to capture your audience’s attention. Instead, what you need to do is to find a way to crawl inside of your audience’s head and see the world the way that they do.

What we’re going to want to discover is how the people who will be in our audience like to process the information that they are being given. They process it in multiple ways including both intellectually and emotionally. What we have to be very careful to avoid is showing up with our speech in our hand and then proceeding to make a pronouncement of our fantastic wisdom to our audience. They won’t care what we have to say if we do this.

One other key piece of information that we’re going to have to uncover before we give our next speech is almost the opposite of what we spend our time normally trying to discover. What we need to know is what ideas that we might present to our audience will cause them to push back, to resist? Which of the ideas that we’ve worked into our speech will end up getting thrown back into our face? We really can’t stop this from happening; however, if we can anticipate the reaction of our audience, then we can prepare for it and have an appropriate response ready.

Maximize The Contrast

One of the things that I love the most about Nancy Duarte is the time and effort that she puts into studying speech that work. She wants to know what the presenter is dong that is connecting with the audience. Her ultimate goal here is to try to capture that “thing” that good presenters do and then make it available to the rest of us so that we can present like the best. She’s taken the time to study Dr. Martin Luther King, Steve Jobs, etc. She discovered what made their speeches so great.

What Nancy uncovered is that the best presenters use a common form for their best speeches. This form maximizes the contrast between how things are and how things can be. Contrast can take on many different forms during our presentations: content, delivery, and emotion. What we are going to want to be doing is creating and resolving tension through contrast. We’ll want to present our idea, and then we’ll want to present whatever the opposite of our idea is. During our presentation we’ll want to move between these two ideas and show our audience why our idea is so much better than the alternative.

What All Of This Means For You

Nancy Duarte is the owner of a company that specializes in creating visuals that help tell stories and get messages across to audiences. She really knows her stuff. She has been taking the time to study the really good speakers in order to determine why they are such good speakers. She thinks that she has discovered their secret that we can use to make sure that our next audience gets the benefits of public speaking,.

If we want to have any hope of connecting with your next audience, then you are going to have to make sure that you don’t show up expecting them to just absorb and agree with what you have to say. Instead, you’ll have to take the time to crawl into their heads and understand how they want to receive your information. You’ll also have to understand which of your ideas are going to generate the most push back. Nancy has studied the speaking styles of the most successful speakers and she has learned that they do an excellent job of using contrast to capture their audience’s attention.

The way that we can become better speakers is by taking the time to study how the really good speakers do their stuff. Since none of us have the time to sit down and do a good job of this, people like Nancy Duarte are especially important to us. If we listen to what she has to say about understanding our audience and adding contrast to our speeches, then the next speech that we give just might be our best!

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How quickly do you think that you should switch between the two contrasts in your speech?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
 
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

In order for the effort that we put into creating and delivering a speech to all be worth it, we need to get something out of the presentation. Yes, if you are being paid to speak, then you are getting something, but even then we speakers want more. What we want is for our audience to be moved to action by what we have told them. How to make this happen during your next speech is what we all want to know how to do.

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The more of you that there is in a speech, the more your audience will get out of it

The more of you that there is in a speech, the more your audience will get out of it

Image Credit: Erin Pettigrew

As speakers we understand the importance of public speaking and so we want the time and energy that we put into creating and delivering a speech to be worth something. There are a lot of different ways to measure just exactly how effective a speech that we give is, but it’s ultimately our ability to reach out and connect with our audience that will determine our impact. Let’s take a look and see what steps we can take to make this happen.

It’s All About You

That we want to have an impact on our audience is almost a given. How to make this happen is a completely separate question. As a speaker we need to take a moment and allow ourselves to take on the role of a person who is sitting in our audience. They are living busy lives, they have a smartphone that always wants to be telling them something new, and once your speech is done they have another 5 places that they have to hurry up and get to.

This means that you have quite the task ahead of you. The words that come out of your mouth are going to have to sound like they were created for each individual member of your audience. They are going to have to feel as though you are talking to them, and them alone. In order to make this happen, you are going to have to start telling your audience some stories.

Stories are what your audience is going to remember long after you are done speaking. This is why they are so powerful. A lot of speakers that I know struggle when it comes time for them to create stories to be included in their speech. They spend a lot of time trying to do research in order to find just the perfect story for their speech. This is where they are making a mistake. The best stories to include in a speech are personal stories.

Why Do Our Stories Have So Much Impact?

In all honesty, I’m just a bit uncomfortable when it comes to incorporating my personal stories into my speeches. Why this bothers me is not quite clear, but I guess I sorta see it as working some fiction into my speech even though the things that I’m talking about really did happen to me. Perhaps it’s just that I don’t think that people may believe me when I tell them about something that happened to me.

However, I have included personal stories in speeches that I have given and I cannot argue with the results. When you use a personal story in a speech, you add a great deal of emotional appeal to your speech that can really connect with your audience. A great example of this is when we are giving a speech that has a lot of facts and stats in it. In all honesty, anyone could give that speech. However, if you take the time and work a layer of a human story throughout your speech, you’ll be able to reach through all of the numbers and connect with your audience.

What makes our personal stories so very powerful? Good question. I believe that you might have all of the facts and stats that you need by presenting that information is going to have very little staying power – your audience won’t remember it. If you really want to connect with your audience then tell them a story about how your facts and stats impact them personally and emotionally. By doing this you’ll cause your audience to take action and that’s when you know that your speech has made an impact.

What All Of This Means For You

Speakers who want to make an impact with their speech know that what they are going to have to do to capture the benefits of public speaking is to find a way to emotionally connect with their audience. One of the best ways to go about doing this is to start to incorporate personal stories into your speeches.

We need to understand that our audiences are filled with busy people who have other things to be thinking about. If we want to be able to connect with them, we are going to have to be able to tell them stories that seem like we are talking to them directly. The best kind of stories for us to tell are personal stories because these are the ones that will connect the best with our audience. When we give speeches that contain a lot of facts and stats, adding a personal story will allow us to connect with our audience despite all of the numbers.

I don’t believe that it is easy to add personal stories to a speech. You are revealing just a bit of your private side to your audience and a lot of us are not comfortable doing this. However, if you can find a way to do this then you’ll have uncovered a great way to make an emotional connection to your audience. Get good at doing this and your speeches will become powerful communication tools.

– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World Public Speaking Skills™

Question For You: How many personal stories do you think that you should work into a single speech?

Click here to get automatic updates when The Accidental Communicator Blog is updated.
P.S.: Free subscriptions to The Accidental Communicator Newsletter are now available. Subscribe now: Click Here!
 
Note: What we talked about are advanced speaking skills. If you are just starting out I highly recommend joining Toastmasters in order to get the benefits of public speaking. Look for a Toastmasters club to join in your home town by visiting the web site www.Toastmasters.org. Toastmasters is dedicated to helping their members to understand the importance of public speaking by developing listening skills and getting presentation tips. Toastmasters is how I got started speaking and it can help you also!

What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time

One of my favorite experts in the world of making presentations is lady named Nancy Duarte. She runs a company called Duarte Inc which specializes in helping presenters get their message across using great visuals and she really understands the importance of public speaking. The company’s biggest claim to fame so far is that they created the slides that Al Gore used during his famous “An Inconvenient Truth” speeches. Nancy knows how to grab and hold an audience’s attention and she’s not shy about telling us how to do it.

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