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Don’t try to be Interesting…be Interested!

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By Daniel Kingsley

Inspiration And Interest

 

Passion is energy.  Feel the power that comes from focussing on what excites you.

Oprah Winfrey

 

If you can’t love yourself…how the hell are you going to love somebody else?

Ru Paul Charles

 

Curious people are interesting people…I wonder why that is?

Bill Maher

 

I’m going to say something slightly controversial.  When you’re speaking in public it’s a waste of time to worry about your audience.

It may also seem rather contradictory.  After all, I wrote an article a little while ago called Tell them what they want to hear!  

And I stand by what I said.  It’s really important to think about your audience’s needs, and what they want to hear.  But there’s a time for doing that.  Before you write your speech.

In fact, in designing your presentation, you are looking for a sweet spot.  That section on the Venn diagram where your needs, your audience’s needs and your stakeholder’s needs intersect.

So what matters when you are delivering your talk?  Being interested.

 

Get interested in the connection.

The first thing to get interested in is the wonderful room of people in front of you.  I teach a method called Relational Presence®, where we learn to connect with our audience one person at a time, for 5 to 10 seconds each.  And perhaps surprisingly we make the connection even more important than anything we have to say.

That isn’t to say that the words are unimportant.  Hopefully you’ve spent a good amount of time really crafting your message, so it is well honed and hits the spot.

But at the moment of delivery, I’d encourage you to let go of finding the perfect words and let that connection with your audience be at least 51% important to you.

If you really pay attention to the connection, you’ll discover that each person you make eye contact with feels different.  If you can enjoy that connection and be interested in it, your connection with the audience as a whole will deepen, and your message will land in a completely different way.

We don’t need to think about how each audience member is different, we simply need to feel the difference.  To borrow a phrase from the British supermarket Sainsbury’s, we need to Taste the Difference.

 

Get interested in your material

I quoted the drag superstar Ru Paul above, saying “If you can’t love yourself, how the hell are you going to love anybody else?!”. 

For the purposes of public speaking, I’d change that to “If you can’t be interested in what you’ve got to say, how the hell can you expect anyone else to be interested in what you’ve got to say?!”

If I were being controversial (again) I might say something like – If you’re not interested in what you have to say, you should shut the hell up!  (I almost swore there – I do feel passionate about this).

Yet I know that there are times when you are having to deliver material that you may not be 100% into.

In those cases, your task as a speaker is to make it interesting to yourself.  To find the aspects of what you are saying that are interesting.  You may not be interested in the fire regulations, but you may really care about your colleagues not being burned to a crisp.  (Or, failing that, your favourite plants in the office!)

The simple point here is that the more interested you are in what you are saying, the more likely your audience is to be interested in what you’re saying.

In my workshops, I often encourage people to talk about what they are passionate about, or what they really really want to say.  And I have been fascinated by things that, in the past, I would have found utterly boring.  Because the speaker was into it – I was into it.  And I was enjoying their passion.

 

Feel the meaning of your words

Sometimes when we get excited by a topic, we can get a little lost in our heads, and in doing so we can lose connection with the words we are saying.  If you are saying something really important to you, feel the meaning of the words before you say them, and continue to feel the meaning of those words as you say them.

Another way of describing this would be speaking from the heart.  Yes, sometimes we are communicating dry facts and figures.  But (hopefully) there is a good reason why we are relaying that information.  If we can connect with why the words matter, and the meaning of those words as we speak them they will land in a completely different way.

 

Follow the aliveness

Allow yourself enough room in your plan of your talk to improvise.  Use bullet points rather than scripting it.  This will allow you to stay interested in what you’re saying and follow what’s alive for you in that moment.  There’s a sense when this happens of listening to yourself as you speak and wondering exactly what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.  This creates a freshness.

I tell a bunch of stories in my workshops, and many of them I’ve told dozens of times.  But I try to tell the stories slightly differently every single time.  This keeps them fresh and alive for me, and hopefully for my participants.

 

Putting it all together

If you can be more interested in the connection than in your script, and at the same time more interested in your message (and how much you believe it) than in pleasing your audience, and if you can follow the aliveness and feel the words as you speak them, I can pretty-much guarantee you something.  You’ll be an interesting, perhaps even a compelling speaker.

Good luck, and as always let me know how you get on!

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We explore all these techniques as part of our Foundation Public Speaking Courses in London, or I’m very happy to support you in practising them as part of one to one public speaking coaching.

Daniel Kingsley
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