I often get asked for advice on becoming a motivational speaker. I am always more than willing to offer my two cents on the matter. After all, I have had so many wonderful speaker do the same for me as I was starting out. Having given people my advice numerous time now, I think there are 5 habits every speaker (motivational or not) needs to adopt if they are a) serious and b) care about crafting stories and talks that have impact. These tips have nothing to do with the business of speaking (although these habits can help with that) and focus on the art of speaking itself. These are the habits that work for me and the speakers I admire the most.
- Speak all the time. It is wonderful that you may have delivered that dynamite speech once to a group or that people tell you that you are a great speaker. It really is something you should be proud of BUT a few isolated successes aren’t enough. As a speaker you need to well…..speak. Book yourself as much as possible to as many groups that are appropriate for your message. Don’t have a live audience? No problem. You should be practicing on your own too. How you practice is up to you but you need to be working on new material, refining old material, and at some point rehearsing (just like I did in high school theatre class) to better refine your talks. In a nutshell what I am saying is that speaking needs to be a daily habit.
- Record Yourself. Let me guess: you hate the sound of your voice and how you look on camera. I get it because I am one of those people too. It is a painful but necessary step in improving as a speaker. Playing back your speeches will give you a different perspective on your progress. From body language to vocal inflections to audience reaction…the proverbial tape doesn’t lie.
- Crave Feedback. To get better you have analyze feedback from the audience and meeting planners. Self-analysis is great but what the audience thinks of your message is key. You have to find out if you connected. You can get feedback in a variety of ways ranging from creating your own feedback form to post meeting follow ups talks with meeting planners. I personally like to use this feedback form which is one simple question:“What was my message in 10 words or less”
I often add this to my client testimonial form and it offers a simple temperature check of how the audience perceived my talk. Have I used more complex forms? Yes but when in doubt, that one question is all I need.
- Adjust and Experiment. Full disclosure: I generally don’t like canned speeches. Memorizing a story or a speech word for word and not shifting the content or the context doesn’t really work for me. Growing as speaker involves taking risks on new and old material alike. Speaking daily, film/audio analysis, and getting feedback are useless if you don’t actually apply some of the observations and thoughts. A speech should be a growing, evolving organism. My keynote Hit! Hard! Is very different from when I first started even though the shell of the speech looks similar. Jokes, stories, and audience exercises have been added, deleted, re-added and even improvised on stage over the years. The worst thing that can happen is your change didn’t pan out the way you thought it would…so what! That’s part of the process too! Embrace this step and speaking will become 117% more fun.
- Get a Coach. At some point you will need to get a coach to take you to the next level. Look at this as the speaking equivalent of having a personal trainer. A good coach will help you see your blindspots as a speaker, show you some new tips and drills, and generally help you become a better presenter. I am lucky to have worked with some excellent coaches over the years and continue to make this part of my own development plan. For me it has also led to a love of coaching others (so if you’re interested go on over to www.unleashyourmessage.net. Once you feel developed enough in your own abilities you can coach too or as often happens, people approach you for the one-on-one training.
These 5 habits have proved to be crucial in my success as a speaker. If you are truly interested in being a speaker then you need to speak and incorporate these 5 steps as they lay the foundation for good speaking practice, help keep your creative juices flowing, and most importantly make speaking even more fun than it already is.