How to Get a Standing Ovation

The best way not to get a standing ovation is to try too hard to get one. Aim instead to give a compelling speech.

1. Take a Stand.

Your job as a speaker isn’t to be objective or impersonal. It’s to communicate what you believe to be true and worthy of attention. Complete one of these two sentences: “The most important thing about this subject is…” or “What I want you to remember, if you remember nothing else, is…” Then build your speech around that one idea.

2. Love Your Audience.

The more you know about your audience, the better. So find out what they do, what they care about, what they want. But don’t stop there. Respect them — even if you disagree with their opinions or actions and want them to change them. Care about their welfare by showing them how to solve a problem, achieve a goal, or satisfy a need. And enjoy being in their presence. (This is what sets great speakers apart from the rest.)

3. Keep It Short and Simple.

Audiences today are overwhelmed with information and with competing demands on their time and attention. They don’t have the patience, ability, or willingness to sit through long and complicated presentations. Make you point. Explain it. Illustrate it. Show how it applies to your audience’s situation. Then sit down.

4. Be Entertaining.

Bored people tune out. So if you want people to listen, you have to keep their interest. The first step, of course, is to be interested yourself in what you’re speaking about. (If you’re not fascinated by your topic, do everyone a favor. Don’t talk about it.) Use humor, which isn’t the same as telling jokes. Tell stories.

5. Dress Up.

Show your respect for the audience and for the opportunity to speak to them by dressing well. Never dress beneath the level of the audience. Whatever you wear, make sure it’s clean and neat.

6. Speak Early.

If at all possible, speak early in the program. People are freshest then. It’s easier to speak on the first day of a conference than on the last day. Avoid speaking after lunch, when people’s biorhythms are at their lowest or during any meal where alcohol is being served.

7. Meet and Greet.

As people gather before your speech begins, introduce yourself. Shake their hands. Talk one-on-one to as many people as possible. They already want you to succeed. (No one goes to a speech hoping it will be bad.) Letting them know you gives them one more reason to want you to succeed. See How to Connect With Your Audience.

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The Witt Communications Newsletter contains advice for improving your ability to present yourself and your ideas in a way that wins people’s cooperation. It comes out once a month. Subscribe here.

For information about how Chris Witt can help you become a more powerful speaker, contact us.

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