Why You Should Flip Your Speech Upside-Down

Flip Your Speech Upside-downupside-down person

You like to talk about yourself. It’s okay. Everyone love to. We’re just wired that way. Besides, you’re a cool person with cool experiences, so why wouldn’t you? 

Think about it. You have a microphone pointed at you with a roomful of people staring at you who have been told that you are the person to listen to. So naturally, you think – either consciously or unconsciously – since you have been given this platform and people have come to hear from you, then they must be interested in learning about you. It’s only natural to brush your shoulders off and let the awesomeness of you waft over. It’s a pretty cool feeling. 

by Martin Fisch

by Martin Fisch

 

And so, you open your speech with information about you – why you’re the person talking about this topic and how you got to be the head honcho on stage. 

While I have no doubt that your credentials, background, and experiences are very interesting, this isn’t the best way to open your speech. Don’t worry! You will still be able to talk about yourself. That part has its rightful place…. a little later in your speech.

Too many speakers start their speeches by talking about themselves, not the audience.

I don’t know if it’s a desire to establish credibility and to prove worthiness. I don’t know if it’s being deemed an “expert” that initiates a myopic point of view. I don’t know if it’s just an ego trip that triggers it. I think that for different people each of those could apply.

by Homies in Heaven

by Homies in Heaven

Opening a speech with “how I got here” rather than “this is what I can do for you right now,” increases the probability that your audience will tune you out and start tweeting.

When I create a new speech or help my client develop theirs, there are 10 questions I answer….every time….without fail. These questions help me shift my mindset from the speaker’s POV to the audience’s.

While each of the 10 questions are important to the speechwriting process, there are two crucial ones for the opening of the speech:

What are they (the audience) proud of?

What problems do they have (and are aware of) that my presentation solves?

Let’s start with the problems.

Pinpoint the Pain

By pinpointing and drawing out their pain, you set yourself up for a home run speech. Putting the pain near the beginning of the speech demonstrates that you are a true expert. You understand them. You know what they are thinking and feeling. You know what their struggles.

by Alex Abian

by Alex Abian

This builds your credibility much more than your biography.

Leverage Their Pride

Now, some speakers make the mistake of staying in the “problems section” for too long. After a period of time, your commiserating starts to feel like browbeating. When that happens, you come across as a jerk. Your audience will stop liking you and start turning against you before you’ve reached the meat of your presentation.

You can counteract this potential problem by sprinkling in the answers you gave to the first question, “What are they proud of?”

Flattery goes a long way, especially from the platform.

by Tim Shields

by Tim Shields

Every audience is proud of something. Entrepreneurs are proud of their independence. Sales teams are proud of their business relationships. CEOs are proud of their companies. IT groups are proud of their knowledge. Speakers‘ are proud of every single thing they’ve ever done. (I kid because I love.)

Make it a point to bring these up. Fluff their feathers. Stroke their ego. Make them feel good about themselves.

You will need to tap into their sense of empowerment in order for them to feel like they can tackle the problem you are addressing.

Remember, these two components should be at the beginning of your speech. Once you establish that you understand their struggles and give them a pat on the back for their success, then you can delve into your story and your content. 

This is a subtle and powerful way to win over your audience and make them more receptive to what you have to say.

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6 Comments

  1. Morgan Bye

    I always hated the “traditional” presentation method that I was taught throughout higher education

    1) Tell them what you’re going to talk about
    2) Tell them what you’re talking about
    3) Summarize what you told them

    For me, this needlessly consumes time and mindless repetition just bores people. If you hold your audience, they’ll make their own conclusions.

    • Sharí Alexander

      You know what? I was JUST talking about that formula with someone last night!

      Like you, I’ve never been a fan of that formula. However, so much research points to how that structure can be highly effective for learning (re: the book Brain Rules, which I highly recommend).

      So, I think I found middle ground.

      I think that most people use the formula ineffectively. During the first part – tell them what you’re going to tell them – they are too specific and literal, and they share their conclusions during that section. Which means that the audience can easily check out because you just gave the cliff’s notes version of your speech.

      I think that the formula can be much more effective if:
      1) You create intrigue during the first part
      2) You tell the WHAT THEY WILL GET OUT OF THE PRESENTATION in the first part
      and/or
      3) You tell them the questions that you will answer by the end of your speech

      I find these tactics to be much more effective and entertaining. You create curiosity in the minds of your audience and you prime them for what’s to come.

      Thoughts?

      (I feel a blog post on its way here!) 🙂

      • Anne Costa

        Yes, I have had it happen…. and audiences always know!

      • Vivayne

        It makes me feel like they don’t respect my time when they give an intro like Morgan explained above. It’s usually a repeat of information they have already given me in order to have me join the speech in the first place.

  2. Anne Costa

    Very good information… but your flattery has to be sincere and believeable or you come across as a phony.

    • Sharí Alexander

      You are absolutely correct, Anne. Being fake will always backfire.

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