What do you honestly consider a good speech? No, I don’t mean in reference to your own speeches. When you sit down to listen to a speaker in a meeting or a seminar or at some semi-formal function, what are your expectations?
Maybe you want the speaker to be engaging, funny, relevant, or at least brief.
Or, maybe (to paraphrase a line from the movie Jerry McGuire) you just want to be inspired.
That’s fair. Just one question: why aren’t you holding yourself to that standard?
Magic in the Message
Maybe you just don’t know how to inspire an audience. Maybe you are too worried about getting all the facts out there, checking all of your sources, making clear arguments. Or, maybe you have focused too much on how terrified you are to speak to an audience, let alone attempt to make them feel anything.
But, that’s just it; what’s the point of getting up there and addressing an audience if not to make them feel something? More than that, why make them feel bad with a message of gloom or doom? There’s enough bad news out there that’s widely circulated and widely known. Why add to that?
You don’t realize that there’s magic in the message. You just have to bring it to them.
How to Inspire
The hardest way to try to learn to inspire an audience is to listen to great speakers speeches and try to copy them. Some speakers had the perfect message for the perfect audience at the perfect time, thus securing their place in history. That might be asking a bit much of us. But, there are some things you can do that will help:
Provide a sense of hope – One of the reasons the Star Trek franchise has enjoyed such enduring success is its overall message of hope for the future. Robots trying to destroy humanity or humans enslaved in some sort of tyrannical social order make for gripping tales, but they often leave audiences feeling a bit bummed out. Your message needs to give the audience a sense that the future can and will get brighter if we work toward that. Otherwise, what’s the point of listening to your message? What’s the point of anything if there’s nothing to hope for?
Make it personal – Give that sense of hope to each individual. Make the solution to the problem something that is accessible to each person in the audience. They need to feel that the message is relevant to all, but especially to each. When a person feels he has an opportunity to make a positive impact great or small, he will likely feel inspired.
Be true – As much as you want to provide hope, make sure that the message is true. Discuss the problem realistically. Discuss the solution realistically. Discuss the benefits realistically. It has to ring true; otherwise, the audience will not connect with your message.
Believe in the message – Inspiration is sparked by faith. Believe in what you have to say with absolute conviction, and speak with a passion that can only come from this belief. Others will follow.
I suppose choosing your words carefully, or choosing the right venue will increase the likelihood of inspiring an audience. But, it ultimately comes down to the positive empowerment your message provides, and the strength with which you carry the belief in that message. Do you want to inspire an audience? Then, give them every reason to feel inspired. Expect nothing less from any speaker, including you.