It’s easy to spot boring speakers. They start by stating the obvious. Then they spout generalities. And they conclude by restating the obvious.
Hearing someone open a speech by saying, “These are tough times,” hardly grabs your attention. It gets worse if the speaker laments the struggles of “people just trying to make a living.” Sounds like a vacuous politician.
To compel listeners to care, move beyond predictable prattle. Here’s how:
Turn your eyes into cameras. Describe a vivid scene that you observed. Painting a visual picture activates an audience’s senses. Capture a time, place and activity with such precision that listeners can easily envision it. Use that scene as a springboard to delve into your topic.
Tell a true story. Share an anecdote that’s short and simple. If it takes more than a minute or two to complete the story, it’s too long.
While you don’t need to place yourself at the center of events, some personal disclosure breaks down barriers between you and your listeners. Recounting your initial reaction to an earthquake, for example, can prove mesmerizing (“What surprised me when I felt the ground shake was how quickly my confusion turned to fear.”).
Pose a riddle. Ask a question that’s so scintillating it begs for an answer. Examples include, “What are the three worst mistakes we can make on sales calls?” or “Why do customers lie to us?”
Reveal before-and-after facts. Characterize your attitude or perspective before a key event. Then recount your views after the event. Listeners will wonder what happened to change you so dramatically.