May 17, 2008

Inspire your audience with a fresh perspective



Last night I attended the graduation ceremony for Women's Economic Ventures' Self-Employment Training program. I went through the 14-week program myself in 2004, and these days I volunteer as a speaker and mentor, and fill in anywhere else I'm needed.

In my post on handling a microphone, I shared that I would be providing mini-coaching to a number of the students in preparation for delivering their professional introductions (aka "elevator speeches") at graduation. It was fun to see how the speeches had evolved and improved for the seventeen women I worked with on that day.

The outstanding speech of the evening, though, was delivered by Terry Inglese, the owner of an e-learning company and one of the two students selected as class speakers.

Terry chose "The Wizard of Oz" as the theme for her brief talk, with Dorothy as a metaphor for the growth and change the participants experience in the program.

After an introductory sentence or two, Terry broke out into song. Yes, she sang, "Over the Rainbow," or at least a couple of verses of it. The audience was entranced.

Now, Terry is not a singer. She told us that she rarely sings, even in her native Italian. But, as a teacher, she is always interested in finding new ways for her students to learn and absorb the material she teaches.

In order to get her message across that "the dreams that you dare to dream really do come true," she chose an unusual and rather startling way to make her point.

The speeches and presentations that are most memorable are those that capture our attention, wake us up, and make us think in a fresh new way.

This can be accomplished through humor, as in the speech last night where a pet photographer suggested we persuade our pets to participate by letting them know that treats are involved.

This can be accomplished through metaphor and storytelling, as in the speech from one of the instructors who used "Alice in Wonderland" as her theme and suggested believing six impossible things before breakfast.

This can be accomplished through emotional connection, as in the speech from the other instructor who spoke from the heart when she appealed to her class to stay in touch with her, as she felt like she was sending her "baby chicks" from the nest out into the world.

And this can be accomplished through bringing an unexpected element into your talk, such as music, dance, props, images, games, toys or a hundred other possibilities.

However you choose to engage your audience, do engage your audience.

Try something new and different. Keep it organic and make sure it fits with your topic and audience, and don't just try something for its shock value. But see what happens when you get out of your comfort zone and give your audience a gift of inspiration from a completely new perspective.

Terry Inglese inspired me last night. I told my fellow mentor sitting next to me that, in the next year, I'm going to find a way to sing in one of my presentations!

Have you been inspired lately by a speaker?

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Terry Gault said...

Lisa,

Thanks for the informative post! These are some great ways to connect with your audience.

Here are a few things I might add:

MOVEMENT

Take advantage of one of our natural human inclinations: the DNA code that forces humans to pay heed to any sharp movement within our field of vision. Imagine a grazing zebra when it spots the buff-colored mane of a lion. Its sympathetic nervous system kicks in and the zebra starts to run. The primitive species that didn't pay attention are gone for good. This is not to suggest startling your audience into stampeding out of the room. No, just activate that DNA code with some sort of movement. You're not a statue; don't stand as still as one.

DO SOMETHING DIFFERENT

-Catch the audience off guard by inviting them to participate.

-Employ a dramatic gesture at an unexpected moment.

-Make a loud sound by clapping, stomping a foot, slapping the table or making an unexpected sound with your voice.

-Tease the audience.

-Reveal an interesting prop or use an object in the room in an unusual way.

-Stop and be silent.

Thanks again for the food for thought

Lisa Braithwaite said...

Thank you for your comment, Terry.

I would love for my readers to share how they've been inspired by a speaker. . .

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