You’re on stage: entertain!

I’m talking to you, the boring person on stage behind the mike, looking at your screen or notes, reading a speech with long sentences and big words in a monotonously boring voice, clicking a device to move forward an endless stream of badly edited PowerPoint(TM) slides.

What is wrong with you?

No, really. I mean it. What is wrong with you?

You’re given a (somewhat) captive audience. You have the opportunity to impact the next 2, 5, 20 minutes or hours or years of dozens of people. And you squander it all away. Why? Do you really think you’re actually good at it? You’re not. Did you not have the time or inclination to prepare? Then you should have given that slot to someone else.

If you’re paying for the opportunity to talk, then you’re free to waste your money away. But if you’re invited to talk, then you owe it to the organizers and the audience to provide them maximal value for their money and time.

And that means being Informative And Entertaining. Useful information for most of the audience is easy enough to provide (although I have been blessed to watch incredible vapid speeches that disprove this theory), but it is the entertaining part that is most often missing. I don’t mean that you should make people laugh, but you should become the center of attention of your audience. Sure you have about 15 seconds at the start of your speech where all eyes are making a decision on whether you’re worth being listened to, but not much more. And regaining that attention later on will necessitate defibrillatory shock therapy like breaking into a rap song.

But I digress. So what to do? First things first: learn from the sleazebags who make speeches for a living, those who expect you to vote for them for promises they’ll never keep. Yes, politicians. At least they have one thing going for them, it’s how to deliver speeches to widely different audiences. And the key to a successful speech is the voice. Pitch, intensity and speed. In a nutshell: cadence.

Record yourself giving a speech, and then listen to the recording. If it is painful, as it generally is, figure out what you hate and change it. It’s easy and can give you incredible results very quickly. Then move on to your stance and overall body language while on stage, focusing on your posture, position at rest, and movement of arms when delivering important information. This should get you going far enough that you will be listened to, and remembered. And tweeted.

And finally, movement is better than static, images are better than words. So in descending order of stage value, I suggest you demo live. If you can’t or don’t want to take the risk, then show videos of demos, and if not then animations, otherwise fall back on nice simple strong images, and don’t ever put up a wall of text. Ever.