Speaking Trends for 2007

Here are the trends I’ve noticed as I’ve observed effective speakers and contemporary presentations.

1. The IN-AND-OUT Speech

In-N-Out Burger, a fast food chain in the Western United States, attracts customers with its limited menu of hamburgers and french fries made to order. The idea is that people can get what they want fast and get on with their busy days. Effective speeches and presentations are like that. When you speak, don’t offer a wide range of options or added extras. Keep your remarks focused, purposeful, and brief. Give people what they need in as little time and with as few words as necessary.

2. Entertainment Rules

You don’t have to dazzle your audience with your brilliance or amuse them with your wit. But you do have to entertain them, because if you bore them, you’ll lose them. To entertain means to hold the attention of, to extend hospitality toward, or to mull over. That’s what a good speech does. It engages the audience’s attention, it is warm and welcoming, and it leaves the audience with something to think about.

3. Ideas Trump Information

The more facts and data you try to convey, the less your audience will absorb. They’ve already hit their saturation point. What they want is a way to understand all the information that’s already at their fingertips. They want ideas that pull it all together and make it meaningful. And most of all, they want ideas that will improve their lives. Use information to illustrate and substantiate your ideas. Use ideas to win your audience’s hearts and minds.

4. Speak Like a Leader

As you rise in an organization or gain more authority, you have to change the way you speak. As a leader your goal is no longer to convey information, as if you were conducting a seminar or a technical briefing. As a leader, your goal is to form your audience’s sense of identity, to shape the way they see things, and to motivate them to act. See How Leaders Speak.

5. Upfront and Personal

Audiences have long ago lost their fascination with PowerPoint. They don’t want to look at one more list of bullet points or an endless succession of charts and graphs and cheesy graphics. When you speak, even if you need to use PowerPoint, put yourself in a place that demands the audience’s attention. Keep them looking at you, listening to you, interacting with you. Use your slides as a support, something you refer to now and then to illustrate what you mean.

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