How to Influence Your Audience with a Short & Convincing Speech

Have you ever asked yourself, “What have I gotten myself into now?”

That question and several others came to mind, right before I went on stage to audition for TEDxSMU. Appropriately, the title of my six minute talk was “The World Needs You to Ask Outrageously.”

On the program, I was the final speaker. Because I had never given such a short speech, my first thought was being last would be beneficial. I could watch the other speakers, see how they did and then be more prepared. WRONG! I was intimidated and humbled. The speakers were great and passionate. Their experiences and educational backgrounds are diverse and impressive. Our eight speakers included college professors, a CEO, a brain injury survivor, and people who fought  discrimination.

The Speaker Line Up – I’m Last

Have you ever heard that to stay competitive and continue to grow, you need to take calculated risks which take you outside your comfort zone?

While waiting and questioning my decision to participate, this opportunity allowed me to check off many “outside my comfort zone” boxes:

___  Calculated risk? Yes. There are judges and voting for this program.
___  Uncomfortable? Yes. At the end of the talk, you answer questions.
___  Outrageous? Definitely. People I know and respect attended.
___  Was there an exit I could sneak out without anyone noticing? No.

Thanks to the support of my friends and family, I survived. (Here are more pictures from the event) And I’ll be back on stage for the official TEDxSMU event in the fall. (Stay tuned!)

Even if it’s not a formal speaking event, we are all put in positions where we need to deliver a clear, influential message to coworkers, bosses, employees, volunteers, committee members or even a wedding toast. Here are some questions to ask in preparation.

  • What is it you want to tell the world?  That night, the presenters discussed teaching children science, running a business and the importance of a diverse culture. Whether reenacting a car wreck, using poetry or telling personal stories, they involved their listeners with their unique perspective, passion and experience. When making a sales presentation or attempting to influence your boss, remember that your listener wants to be engaged. They want to hear the good reasons behind your position and how they benefit by agreeing with you.

  • Can you be to the point?  TED and TEDx talks are much shorter than a typical speech. You have a limited time to convey your clearest idea(s). This “get to the point” format is expected in other situations. Instead of starting slowly and building your case, begin your speech with a captivating fact, story or question and don’t waste time. Edit out unneeded information and use examples and stories which makes an impact.

  • Who resonates with this message? Prepare your talk with your audience in mind. If you can, meet the people beforehand. When delivering, identify the friendly faces. Look for people who are involved and need the information. They will be nodding, laughing and giving you good energy. Ignore the haters. Not everyone will like you. If you provide valuable information, their choice to tune out is their loss. And often the ones who seem disturbed aren’t even thinking about you.

  • What’s the worst that can happen? I asked myself that outrageous question several times. Guess what? This calculated risk paid off. Here’s an outrageous question to ask yourself. What calculated risk do I need to take to be more competitive and achieve more success? Whether it is a big talk or another opportunity outside your comfort zone, the world needs you to ask outrageously. Let me know what you outrageously ask for, what calculated risk you try and your results.

About Linda: A recognized authority on negotiations, workplace issues and strategic communication, Linda Byars Swindling, JD, CSP is an author, media expert, a “recovering” employment attorney, and a professional speaker. To book Linda to speak at your event, contact her office.