The Art of Memorable Speaking
Recently, I gave a presentation to the National Association of Women Business Owners. During the speech, I drew comparisons between marketing and football. This is not surprising when you consider that the name of my company—not to mention the title of my book—is Red Zone Marketing. (For the non-sports fans among you, the red zone is the most critical, magnified part of the game, the final 20 yards before the goal line.) What is surprising is the fact that I, a woman, was talking football (that domain of aggressive, testosterone-fueled men) to one of the most powerful women’s organizations in the world!
You can bet that audience remembered me—much more clearly than if I had given a dry recitation of the marketing principles I so strongly believe in. Which brings me to the point of this article: if you want your audience to retain your message, you’d better make sure you frame it in a memorable way. Here are a few of the principles I’ve discovered, often through trial and error, during my years of public speaking:
Convey a strong theme.
My theme is marketing and football. I weave it throughout every presentation. Doing so is much more powerful than simply stating advice about marketing in a factual (i.e., boring) way. And I know it works because even though few people can remember my complicated Polish name (this is my married name, I’m actually Irish), they do remember me . . . as “the Red Zone woman.” Look for a theme that fits your message, and structure your presentations around it.
Use the power of storytelling.
As I’ve mentioned, I like to tell football-related analogies to illustrate marketing principles. Also, I open and close my presentations with stories about my grandmother, a feisty woman who adored the Green Bay Packers and instilled in me my love of football. People remember stories and most will remember the image of Grandma and me spending every Sunday in front of the TV, cheering on our underdog team until we were hoarse. The moral? Find a storyline or analogy that fits your content, then weave it throughout your speech.
Make sure your stories are carefully placed.
I used to tell a story about my grandma at the end of presentations. Later, I was told that audiences would understand my message and me more if I opened with that story, which is what I’ve done from this point on. After all, everyone has a grandmother, and talking about mine “humanizes” me to the audience right away. Plus, it justifies the fact that I like football, which keeps my Red Zone Marketing analogies from seeming like a calculated “stunt” to get business. You see, where you place your stories in your presentation does make a difference.
Engage the audience.
People like to attend football games because they get involved: they scream, jump up and down, even paint their faces. Likewise, you need to involve your audience in your presentation. Get them to answer a question, or to write something down, or simply to laugh (or cry, for that matter). Any time the audience participates, they remember. So go through your presentation with a fine-toothed comb, looking for opportunities to engage the audience.
Surprise the audience.
As I said before, because of my gender it’s inherently surprising that I talk about football. But I have other methods for surprising an audience as well. Specifically, I often SING a line from the Bonnie Raitt song “Something To Talk About.” (I do this in reference to my belief that marketing techniques should be creative and memorable enough to get clients talking.) It wakes them up every time—and hopefully, the next time they hear Bonnie’s song, they’ll remember my message.
Give them something to talk about.
See how I set you up for this in my last tip?
In my book Red Zone Marketing, I use the acronym SCORE to express the five principles that help businesses get out of the red zone and into the end zone. It stands for Specific Niche Positioning, Creating A Client Experience, Opportunities From Obstacles, Referral Responsibility and Extra Point. Needless to say, I use SCORE in my presentations to help people remember these marketing principles. What acronyms can you use in your next speech?
Less content is better.
Do not try to cram all the information and advice you have into a one-hour presentation! Too many speakers do this, and I used to do it, too. But it’s not a good idea. You will overwhelm your audience and they probably will only remember a few ideas anyway. Instead of giving them ten big tips, give them the top five, then reinforce those five.
Mingle prior to your presentation.
I like to chat with audience members before I speak. This serves several purposes. Number one, I may discover something valuable about the group that I can use to hone and personalize my speech. Two, if I can actually refer to a conversation with an audience member, it makes my presentation more memorable. Three, building a connection with just a few audience members makes me feel more psychologically comfortable, which in turn improves the presentation.
I hope that you will try some of these techniques to make your presentations more memorable. But bear in mind that public speaking is more art than science. Certain techniques will work for certain people, others simply won’t be the right “fit.” That’s why I urge you to explore until you find a presenting style that feels comfortable, one that your gut (and your audience) tells you is working.
Above all, don’t underestimate the power of sincerity. When you believe in and care deeply about the message you’re presenting, your passion will shine through every word you speak. And nothing is more memorable than that!