Why Isn’t Your Speech Working?

Speakers need to understand what is going wrong with their speech
Speakers need to understand what is going wrong with their speech Image Credit: chany crystal

When we give a speech we want our audience to be hanging on our every word. We want them to be excited to come and hear us. We want them to rush the stage once we are done in order to hear what else we have to say. However, as we all know, this does not happen all the time. In fact, sometimes when we give a speech we simply don’t connect with our audience – they’ve missed the importance of public speaking. They don’t pay attention and nobody wants to talk with us once we are done. What do we need to do during our speech to create a speech that will resonate with our audience?

Problems With The Speeches That We Give

One of the problems that we can run into when we are giving a speech is that we forget that we have an entire stage that we can use when giving our speech. What happens is that we end up favoring a side of the room and we don’t look at everyone in the audience. There are variations on this mistake. Sometimes speakers turn slightly and face one side of the room for most of their speech. What we have to remember is that in order for our speech to be effective, we need to work so that each person feels that you are speaking to him or her. If you don’t do this, then you will not connect. Speakers need to remember to look at everyone throughout their entire speech.

It is all too easy for a speaker to view their speech as being a one-way conversation. It turns out that it’s not. During your speech, you will say things and your audience is going to react to what you have said. What this means for you is that you are going to have to react to their reactions. A common mistake that some speakers make is that they don’t respond (at least visually) to the audience’s reactions. We need to realize that there will be many moments during our speech where audience members will react in certain ways. If we ignore them and keep talking without at least visually acknowledging their reactions, we won’t be able to connect with them. Instead, we will come across as if we could give the same exact speech without our audience even being there. What we need to understand is that speaking involves a back-and-forth flow of energy between the speaker and their audience. If we end up blocking that energy flow then it is like blocking the blood flow in a person’s body – clearly the results can be disastrous.

Our ability to grab and hold on to our audience’s attention is based on the speech that we are giving. In most of our speeches, we are telling our audience about something that has happened to us. We can make a mistake if we “tell” the audience instead of taking them back to our story. What you don’t want to do is to tell a story from the past; instead let your audience experience your story in the present. The way that you can accomplish this is by using dialogue, expressions, reactions and involvement. Another mistake that speakers can make is to not use relatable characters. If your stories are about doing things that your audience has never done and perhaps never wants to do, you will have a problem connecting. One way to solve this problem is for a speaker to use journey related universal principles that can bridge that gap.

Solving Connection Problems

When we give a speech we have to be very clear about just exactly why we are giving a speech. You may have lived an amazing life, but if your speech is a verbal autobiography it can leave your audience members wondering what they should get out of it. We really don’t want to make people work that hard. Your audience needs to know what they’ll get out of your speech from the beginning – not just at the end. Don’t make the mistake of telling your audience “I did this and I did that and I did this other thing … and you can do it too.” The problem with doing this is that it’s not audience-focused enough to connect. Every speaker needs to be audience-focused from the very beginning.

Sometimes when we are giving a speech, we’d really like it to be someone else who is talking with our audience. We have to be very careful in situations like this. You may have a favorite speaker whom you think could do a better job of delivering your speech than you could. What might happen is that you decide to take on their persona. Don’t do this. You must be yourself or you’ll never connect with your audience. We need to be ourselves on stage. Not only do we have to be ourselves, but our story has to be our story also. You’ll run into problems if your content is not original enough. If your audience thinks that they have heard this before, then they will tune you out.

Finally, your speech won’t work if you can’t cause a change in your audience. Your speech has to have a message that will connect with them and make them want to change something about their lives. If your stories don’t stir anything in the audience then this won’t happen. If your stories are one-dimensional and flat, you will not provoke any emotion (tears and regret, happiness and joy, etc.) in your audience you will not connect. After you have been able to get your audience to accept your message and think about what it means to them, you need to get your audience to reflect. If your audience does not take time to reflect, you will not end up connecting with them.

What All Of This Means For You

The reason that we give a speech is because we want to create change in our audience. This can only happen if we are able to connect with them during our speech and share the benefits of public speaking. However, it can be very easy for us to not connect with our audience. We need to become aware of the mistakes that we can make when delivering a speech so that we can avoid making them.

During our speech we need to make contact with our audience by looking at them during our speech. Every speech that we give is really a two-way conversation with our audience and we need to react to their reactions. When we are sharing a story with our audience, we need to be careful to not tell them a story, but rather involve them in the story itself. We need to be very clear when we are giving a speech about what we want our audience to get out of it. Make sure that you give your speech as yourself, not as someone else. Make sure that your speech’s message connects with your audience and that you give them time to reflect on what you have shared with them.

Every time that we give a speech, we have a goal. We want our speech to connect with our audience in order to change their lives. We need to understand how to go about making this happen. We also have to be aware that if we do things incorrectly, we run the risk of losing our audience. The next time that you give a speech, make sure that you solve your connection problems before you lose your audience!

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

Question For You: How can you tell if you are not connecting with your audience?

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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

I think that we all know that if there is some way for us to work some humor into our next speech, then we stand a better chance of having our message remembered by our audience. However, that’s where the tricky part comes: just exactly how do you add humor to a speech? I’m not that funny of a person and so coming up with funny things to add to one of my speeches is not something that is easy for me to do. If only there were a set of steps that I could follow that would show me how to create a speech that would make my next audience laugh.