It’s All About Them
Dale Carnegie started out teaching people how to give speeches. As a result of his teaching, he wrote How to Win Friends and Influence People, which may be the first self-help book ever published. (It’s still selling big time.) I just read a blog by Chris Brogan that made me think of Carnegie’s “Six Ways to Make People Like You.” They are:
- Become genuinely interested in other people.
- Remember that a man’s name is to him the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
- Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
- Talk in the terms of the other person’s interest.
- Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.
I always like Carnegie’s advice, and I highly recommend his book to many of my clients. I just wish it didn’t sound so manipulative to me. “I’ll make you feel important,” it seems to say, “and I’ll do it sincerely so you’ll like me.”
Brogan’s posting echoes Carnegie’s rules 1, 4, and 5. Like Carnegie Brogan makes a point about focusing more on the other person in a conversation than on yourself. But he does it without sounding calculating, which I like.
In situations where you’re talking with others, do your best to talk more about them. Learn about them. Ask questions. The smartest people are those who plumb the depths of the other person, and come away knowing them deeply. We seem to fear, as humans, that the other person in a situation won’t hear us. We get worried that we’ll leave a conversation somehow unequally.
Strangely, the most “important” people (in at least the public business sense) I have ever met in my life have all asked me more about myself, and even with me trying hard to turn it around, they were gracious and interesting and still worked hard to know more about me than themselves.
The same advice applies to giving a speech. Which sounds strange I know, because a speech seems to be more like a monologue than a conversation.
But here’s what’s important to remember about giving a speech: It isn’t about you. It isn’t even about your expertise. It’s about your audience and how they can benefit from what you say.
As you prepare you speech, you have to listen to your audience, doing as much research as possible about them. Who are they? What do they already know and feel about your topic? What are their problems, concerns, interests, goals? What do they have in common? What makes them different? Why are they gathering? What do they want? It’s hard, in my opinion to find out too much about your audience.
Before your speech begins, talk with individuals in the audience. Don’t just stand off to the side of the room or sit quietly somewhere. Shake people’s hands as they come in. Introduce yourself. Ask them about themselves.
And as you’re speaking, listen to their body language. Invite their questions and really listen to them. (Don’t simply use their questions as a jumping off point for what you what you wanted to say anyway.)
Make your speech as much like a conversation as possible, listening as deeply and authentically as you can to the people you’re addressing, and I guarantee you’ll give a better speech.
The goal of a speech isn’t — or shouldn’t be — to make your audience marvel at what a great speaker you are. The goal of a great speech is to make them marvel at what they’re capable of.
Who are the speakers you admire most? Why?