Enthusiasm and Energy is the absolute, most-important skill in public speaking. If you take only one piece of advice about public speaking, make sure that it is this pearl of wisdom.
If you focus on this one simple thing, the number of times you say "uhm" won't matter. In addition, if you focus on this one thing, your gestures and not knowing what to do with your hands won't matter. If you focus on this one thing, then the occasional loss of train of thought won't matter. In fact, if you focus on this one simple thing, you can break just about every rule that public speakers are supposed to abide by, and you will still win over your audience.
Enthusiasm and Energy is the Secret of Great Presenters
This one simple rule has transformed countless mediocre speakers into good speakers, scores of good speakers into great speakers, and numerous great speakers into world-class speakers.
This simple rule that can make or break a speaker is… ENTHUSIASM.
Enthusiasm Is a Choice.
That's right, if you have a little excitement in your talk and a spring in your step, people pay attention. Your audience will have just about as much excitement about your talk as you do, and no more. So, if you want to win over your audience, add a sparkle of enthusiasm.
One of my mentors told me that there are two rules to live by in the world of professional speakers. She said, "Rule number one is to never speak on a topic that you yourself are not enthusiastic about. Rule number two is that if you ever violate rule number one, fake it 'til you make it."
Frank Bettger in his book How I Raised Myself from Failure to Success in Selling said it a different way. He said, "If you act enthusiastic, then you'll be enthusiastic."
I like to explain it a little differently. In my experience, there is no such thing as a boring topic. There are only boring speakers. So, no matter what you are speaking about, your audience will never be more excited about it than you are.
Nervousness Can Actually Be Perceived as Enthusiasm.
For those of us who get nervous in front of groups, it's even easier. When we are nervous, we often cut out preambles and get right to the point. (We want to get it over with.) In addition, our rate of speech typically speeds up. We also tend to move around a lot more. In many cases, we may move our hands around more than normal. Well, when we are excited about something, we do the exact same things.
Years ago, when I was a sales manager, I was often amazed at the number of times that a brand new salesperson without a lot of product knowledge and absolutely no experience could close sale after sale while my more seasoned people were struggling. The more times I went on sales calls with these new people, the more I started to notice a pattern. New salespeople are often nervous. So when they walk into an office on a sales call, they tend to cut right to the chase. They also generally talk faster because they are afraid they'll forget something. They have a tough time sitting still because of the nervousness, so they move around a lot.
I noticed that these symptoms of nervousness worked to the advantage of these new salespeople. Their customers perceive the salespeople as being extremely enthusiastic about what they were selling. I would imagine that these potential buyers were saying things to themselves like, "If this person believes so much in this product, it must be good."
We as speakers can also use our nervousness to our advantage. When we turn that pent up nervousness into energy and enthusiasm, our audience can't help but be energized as well.
Five Turnkey Ways to Add Enthusiasm and Energy to Any Presentation
There are about five key things that a speaker can physically do at any time to insert energy into his or her presentation.
- Speed Up: Many people think that speaking fast is bad, but in reality, a person who speaks quickly is inserting energy and enthusiasm into his or her presentation. Walk faster, talk faster, and move faster.
- Increase Your Volume: Speak up just a little louder than normal, and you’ll get noticed. If you have a naturally quiet temperament, then you might need to stretch yourself to increase your volume.
- Move More: Move your feet more and gesture more to increase your energy. Most of us speak with our hands when we talk with someone one-on-one. Do the same thing in front of a group.
- Gesture Bigger: The bigger the room is, the more exaggerated your gestures will need to be. Small gestures portray timidity and shyness. Big gestures portray confidence and competence. Bigger gestures add enthusiasm.
- Change your Tone or Emphasis: When you come to a word or concept that is important, punch out the information with power. Place emphasis on important words. Place less emphasis or pause on concepts when appropriate.
Act Enthusiastic And You'll Be Enthusiastic
If you do any of these five things in your speech, you will be perceived as an above-average speaker. If you do all five of these things, your audience will LOVE YOU! Your enthusiasm as the speaker is what makes you exceptional. That is if your energy level is high! Act enthusiastic when you speak, and you will be enthusiastic.