7 Habits of Highly Effective Speakers

communication public speaking

Do you ever wonder what makes some speakers super successful?

Have you ever sat in an audience or in a group in awe of a speaker and pondered “How did she do that?” 

The answer is: through a lot of work!

There are some “freaks of nature” out there who are naturally gifted at speaking, probably less than 1% of the population, but most of us have to work really hard at it.

My first few speeches were the stuff of horror movies.  As an introverted, private and shy person, I was the least likely person to become a public speaker or presenter. I remember the first time I was handed the microphone to speak on stage. It was not pretty. It felt and I’m sure looked like a train wreck from those watching. 

I felt sorry for my audience. But over time, with every speech, I got better and better.

How did that happen? I can tell you one thing, not by accident.

Here are two things I did right away to ensure I continued to improve my speaking skills.

  1. I started to observe the habits of highly successful speakers.
  2. I put those habits into practice over and over again.

 

How to know if this article is for you:

  • You want to be intentional about continually improving your communication skills
  • You often have to speak to groups of people, do online videos or speak on stage
  • You want to be effective in getting your message across to your audience

 

7 HABITS OF HIGHLY EFFECTIVE SPEAKERS

 

HABIT #1: SUCCESS MINDSET

Highly effective speakers who cultivate a success mindset approach speaking from a service perspective versus trying to impress. So, often I see people get into their own heads about speaking in front of others that are not helping them in any way. 

They ask themselves questions that are causing them to feel more insecure instead of empowered.

Questions like: “Will the audience like me? What if I’m not good enough? What if I mess up? What if I bore my audience?” So on and so forth. These questions are not only self-centered but are not helping you in any way.

 

Ask yourself the following:

  • How can I serve those listening to the best of my abilities?
  • What are the biggest challenges they need solved?
  • How can I best connect with this audience?
  • How can I put the focus on them?



HABIT #2: BIG IDEA

What's your presentation destination?” The bottom line is that you need a clear goal for your presentation. One goal for what you want your audience to know, feel or do immediately after the presentation. 

According to the studies, when most people were asked immediately after leaving a presentation what their takeaway was or what the presentation they just sat through was about 73% of the audience had no clear answer to that question.

You always want to make sure that you practice the habit of starting the development of your presentation with the first step of establishing your BIG IDEA. The takeaway you want your audience to have.

 

Ask yourself the following:

  • What is the one objective of my presentation?
  • What is the one takeaway I want my audience to have?
  • How can I make that big idea as simple and clear as possible?



 

HABIT #3: LISTEN FIRST

First, listen with empathy and understand others, and then speak to have yourself understood.

Audience analysis. Audience analysis. Audience analysis.

Instead of focusing on what you want to say (speaker-centric communication), focus on what the audience needs to hear (audience-centric communication). Audience analysis (or just plain asking them) reveals the mindset of your audience. What is keeping them up at night? What problems do they have? What’s the source of their problem? What beliefs do they have? What are their values? What information do they need?

Once you truly understand your audience’s perspective, you will find it much more straightforward to craft your message to reach them. You will also be a lot more effective in being heard.

 

Do the following:

  • If it’s your own audience, take some time to really understand their needs by asking clarifying questions. 
  • Really try to understand their needs, problems, dreams and the solutions they are after
  • If you are speaking to someone else’s audience, ask the host or event planner to give you more insight into their audience.

 

 

HABIT #4: PREPARE, PREPARE, PREPARE

As soon as you know you are speaking or delivering a webinar, it is time to start preparing. If preparation means opening PowerPoint or Word, think again.

One of my favorite ways to prepare is something I learned from a mentor of mine, Nancy Duarte,  She recommends storyboarding your speech on Post-It notes. Brainstorm your points and sub-point. Write them on Post-Its. Put those on a wall then you can easily reorganize your speech or crumple and toss into the recycle bin points that don't fit your goal.

This process needs to start early. Speech preparation is an ongoing, not so sexy process but a necessary one for speaker success.

 

Do the following:

  • Using post it notes, first write down your BIG idea
  • Then brainstorm your points and sub-points supporting that big idea
  • Jot down stories that can go well with your supporting points 



HABIT #5: COLLECT STORIES

Audiences LOVE stories. As you know I’m a big fan of stories. I talk a lot about the power of stories for speaking and business growth. If you want to check out some of those articles you can do so here. 

Stories spice up bland, boring data-driven presentations. Stories engage an audience and help them relate the content to their own life.

Successful speakers are always looking for stories and know that stories don't have to be extraordinary. Best stories come from ordinary experiences.

Stories are everywhere. Successful speakers are always on the lookout to find them.

 

Do the following:

  • Constantly be on the lookout for stories. Small or big.
  • Jot those ideas and stories down into your phone or on notebook designated to collecting stories
  • Put those stories into themes.
  • Use stories often in your speeches, presentations, and live videos.

 

 

HABIT #6: BE AUDIENCE-CENTRIC

Audiences want interaction during the presentations. They want to feel involved.

Ask them questions that make them think. Use the most important word in any presentation. Use your stories to relate to their world.

No matter what your presentation topic, think strategically about how to involve your audience more in your speech.

For the love of all good things, avoid the "me, me, me" introduction. No one cares about you – they care about how your information will serve them.

 

Ask yourself the following:

  • What are some creative ways I can have my audience talking back to me
  • How can I make my presentation a conversation and highly interactive
  • Research great speakers who do this well. Study what they do and imitate them.



HABIT #7: CONSTANT IMPROVEMENT

In one of my favorite books on productivity is a book called “7 Habits Of Highly Effective People” by Stephen Covey, there’s a chapter called, “Sharpen the saw”.

It’s actually one of my favorite mantras. The idea is that you constantly want to focus on improvement. You want to be intentional about continually improving yourself as a speaker and your speaking and presentation skills.

 

I could fill a whole article with “sharpen the saw” activities for speakers, but here’s just a small sample of rejuvenation activities:

  • Read speaking books and blogs to hone your knowledge.
  • Watch speakers who inspire you (like those at TED).
  • Reflect on past presentations, review feedback, and take steps to improve.

 

The "Sharpen the saw" activities can also improve your speaking effectiveness too, such as:

  • Better physical fitness will give you more energy on stage, and more stamina when delivering lengthy sessions such as an all-day course.
  • A healthier diet consisting of more water, and less sugar and caffeine drinks will improve the quality of your voice.

 

You get the picture.

 


 

RECAP

Highly effective speakers and successful ones are that way because, ON PURPOSE. They are intentional about sharpening their craft. They spend a considerable amount of time honing their speaking skills. The good news is that these are all habits that are easy to learn and implement.

7 Habits of highly effective speakers:

1. They practice a success mindset.

2. They listen first.

3. They establish their big idea and break it down into clear goals.

4. They make sure to prepare.

5. They collect stories.

6. They are audience-centric.

7. They strive for constant improvement.

 

 

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