As consultants, we often give speeches and presentations. Sometimes on platforms in front of dozens or hundreds or thousands of listeners. Sometimes in small sessions with a client or a prospect. Every talk is a golden opportunity to advance your consulting business.
The power of public speaking has been on prominent display the past couple of weeks in the U.S. The national, political conventions are among the few occasions when tens of millions of people watch a series of speeches. (And heckle.)
If you ever had any doubts as to the power of public speaking, remember that President Obama’s path to the White House was ignited by a speech at one of these conventions.
While your talks in front of audiences big and small may not land you in the position of being “the most powerful person in the free world,” they can certainly land you lucrative clients.
But, as we’ve seen at the conventions, there’s an enormous gap between speeches that soar and inspire, and those that fall flat. How do you ensure you’re on the right side of that chasm—the side that spurs prospects to engage you?
You walk your presentation through the “3 Tents” before delivering it.
Tent #1: Intent
What reaction are you shooting for? What do you want listeners to do, think, and feel as a result of your speech?
Presentations that don’t have a specific intent ramble, wander and stutter. You’ve heard those speeches and wondered where the speaker is going… right before you started surfing your email.
In contrast, when you’ve clearly defined the intent, your speech will be well directed and hit the mark.
Yesterday, I delivered a final presentation to a client. I knew I wanted them to feel confident in the results and to explicitly agree that the project met the objectives. Those were the outcomes I planned to achieve, and those were the outcomes the presentation delivered.
Tent #2: Content
The “meat” of your speech is a message with an implication. It isn’t a litany of facts or opinions or ideas or recommendations.
Whether you’re going to be speaking for two minutes or two hours, you should be able to convey the message and what you want your audience to take away in one or two short sentences.
Your message then becomes the central pillar in the architecture of your speech. Sub-points, supporting data, illustrative tales, and so forth, wrap themselves around your message in ways and places that must be immediately understandable to your audience.
Ultimately, your message and implication should be punctuated with a “phrase that pays.” A memorable phrase that captures the essence of your point.
Attendees at some of my speeches walk away muttering, “It’s not about your shoes, it’s about their feet” which is a phrase that pays I sometimes use to reinforce Right-Side Up thinking. (Consulting isn’t about you, it’s about your clients.)
Tent #3: Potent
Your speech must have power, and that’s all about the delivery. The very best speeches bubble over with passion and conviction.
Harness your passion and conviction by honing your oratorical skills. Study speakers you admire, practice, and diligently improve at your craft.
Review how cadence and rhythm transform good speeches into unforgettable presentations.
Learn through personal trials how the use of inflection, the power of threes, and the role of repetition and pauses will improve your talks.
One of the most powerful speeches in modern history—“I have a dream” delivered on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial—didn’t burst spontaneously from Martin Luther King, Jr.’s lips.
He delivered almost the exact same talk to a small gathering in a gymnasium a few months earlier, and parts of the speech to intimate groups the months before that.
Most of your speeches aren’t monologues delivered to large crowds. Nevertheless, when you learn how to invest potency in those speeches, even your mid-project presentations to a few clients will improve, and your conversation with prospects will yield more fruitful results.
Apply the “3 Tents” to your next speaking occasion, and let me know how they work for you.
Today, though—right now—tell me the best speech you’ve heard in the past few years. Post your thoughts below.
Text and images are © 2023 David A. Fields, all rights reserved.