Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Do You Speak in Color or Black & White?

Last week at our annual meeting, we had more than 30 speakers. As I listened to these men and women, I was reminded of something one of my speech coaches challenged me on years ago. If you want to connect with an audience, you need more than great content, you need some color, too.

In the News

Color is the term Victoria Labalme uses to describe the elements that make people want to listen to us speak. Here are some ways to add color to your next presentation…

Don’t Tell Stories – This is the most radical advice Victoria ever gave me; it was also the best. She said, “Don’t tell stories – take people there!” I always assumed a story was color – no! A story poorly told is B&W, not color. When you “take people there,” the level of detail you include skyrockets, the adjectives become more vibrant and your emotions punctuate the storyline. When you master this, you can transport your audience to a different time and place every time you speak.

Vary Your Pace – If you put a metronome on your next presentation, would it follow a predictable beat? Look for appropriate places in your talk to increase the pace of the delivery; look for places to slow down too. Silence can be a powerful tool if you stop talking long enough to use it. Your audience should not be able to predict your cadence.

Incorporate Purposeful Movement – Random movement can be distracting; movement with meaning can certainly add color. During a talk, I was telling an audience about climbing a fallen tree – as I told the story, I actually climbed a portion of the stage rigging… that’s not only dangerous, that’s color!

Change Your Volume – A presentation, short or long, delivered at a constant volume is a missed opportunity. In your next presentation, look for appropriate places to raise your voice and perhaps you’ll find a place to whisper – if you do, people will lean in – literally hanging on your every word.

Alter your Tone and Pitch – Have you ever heard a speaker who was monotone? That’s not color, it’s black and white. When you are passionate about something, your voice should reflect it. Listen to one of your previous presentations. Think about how you could vary your tone and pitch in your next talk.

The basics of public speaking are actually commonplace… Content is still king – you must have something of value to share. Structure matters too. Can your audience follow your presentation? A call to action is also essential for most talks to have impact. And, practice can enhance competence and confidence. Ignore these basics at your own peril. However, to make your message soar, learn to add some color. Your audiences will be glad you did.

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Comments (2)
  1. This is the best blog yet! I attended 13 different lectures last week at seminar, one of my focus areas was the delivery style and every one was different!
    Mark you’re AWESOME.

    KJ Wari

    - Kj Wari
    • Thanks, KJ, for your comments. Some of the speakers last week needed a little more color. That’s something we’ll work on for the future. I look forward to seeing you soon! Mark