Everyone’s An Expert
Audiences like to hear from experts, but that doesn’t mean you have to have a postgraduate degree in a subject before you’re able to talk about it. Audiences also respond well to a speaker when they feel they are getting an insight into that speaker’s personality. If you put these together, you will find you are speaking about a subject on which you are a world authority: your particular take on a subject.
If you have facts and figures to support your view, by all means use them. Keep in mind that your audience may disagree with your interpretation of the evidence, so show how and why you have come to the conclusions that you have.
Newspaper editors often say you should never let the facts get in the way of a great story, and a personal story can be more effective than bamboozling people with figures. Why is your topic of particular interest to you? What has your personal journey been with this? Why do you care about it – and why should the audience care too?
That said, if you have a really strong statistic that makes your case for you and people can take away with them, bring it on. I once worked with a speaker who had reams of top-flight maths to support his business proposal. We got these figures down to three key numbers that underpinned how brilliant his idea was and were understandable to potential investors.
While it’s tempting to use PowerPoint to illustrate your statistics, make sure that if you do, it isn’t distracting from what you are doing on stage. The best slide you can include is a blank one that you can put up when you want the audience to be focussing on you.
Ultimately, your audience won’t agree with you if they feel you’re trying to be something you’re not. So although it’s important to get your facts straight, it’s also vital to communicate them with the full bag of public speaking tricks: audience participation, laughter, vocal variety, positive and strong body language… Going beyond the numbers will make you a more powerful and persuasive speaker.
Ian Hawkins is an author, comedian and presenter. See www.mrhawkins.co.uk and follow @SmartMrHawkins on Twitter.