In this space, we profile top executives who use the spoken word effectively as part of their corporate communication strategy.
Ian Altman is the CEO of Grow My Revenue, as well as an in-demand keynote speaker, bestselling author, and growth strategist. Speeches and presentations have always been a critical part of his business outreach.
While he says “I’m fortunate that I’ve always been comfortable speaking in front of an audience,” he’s also worked hard to develop his natural talent. By investing in training, seeking feedback, and analyzing each of his presentations, he’s learned some powerful lessons. One of the most important can be summed up as: make it about them, not about you.
It’s very easy, Altman says, for a speaker to focus on him or herself: trying to find just the right words and searching for ways to make sure the presentation will benefit the speaker.
This leads to two big problems.
First, if the speech is all about you, the chances are you’ll get nervous, because you’ll feel judged every second you’re speaking. If instead you concentrate on what the audience wants and needs, you take the focus away from yourself and tend to relax.
In addition, shifting the focus away from yourself makes it much more likely you’ll be able to engage and even capture an audience. Presentations that deliver benefits to the people in the audience are much more powerful than those that describe all the great things a speaker can do.
Another major lesson Altman’s learned is that, for executives, a speech or presentation is not “just talk. It’s a performance.” This is a perspective that Altman credits to Michael Port, author of Steal The Show and one of the most respected performance coaches for top speakers.
That means, first, that a presentation should use stories. Why? “Our brains work differently when we hear stories,” Altman says. “Stories make it easier for audiences to focus on what a speaker says, understand it and remember it.”
In addition, to be an effective performance, most speeches or presentations should have “an arc, like that of a three act play.” The overall talk and each module within that talk should lay a foundation, build a conflict, and then deliver on a resolution.
Altman uses that structure to set up conflict in the presentation – a successful approach to sales that suddenly didn’t work, a triumph over great odds, etc. “An element of drama really gets the audience engaged,” he says. Ultimately, the performance has to be genuine. You can’t fake authenticity.
And finally, Altman reminds us that the key to any great keynote is ensuring your audience takes away information they can apply to their lives, businesses, or future. To accomplish that, the speaker has to put in the time necessary to research the audience and the host organization. “Make sure the message is not generic, but hits the listeners at their core.”
Once you have those elements, Altman says, you have to do three simple things…”rehearse, rehearse, rehearse.”