10 Tips to Own the Stage: The Best Public Speakers Don’t Practice, Talk Fast, Dance and Make the Audience Fall Madly in Love with Them
On the heels of 36 speaking engagements in 2016…including a Dreamforce keynote…I had a profound realization of what it takes to OWN the stage. And truly kill it. At the risk of coming across as arrogant, I am confident in my speaking abilities. As a CEO, it is a gift I am incredibly grateful for. I’ve always been able to command a room, whether speaking or leading a small meeting. My gift was passed down from my dad to both my brothers and me.
Tuesday morning at 10 a.m., I took the stage in front of 750 B2B marketers at Forrester’s annual event in Miami. This time was different. I am always pretty darn good. But I felt great. I was on FIRE. IN my skin. So confident, at ease, authentic, real. I connected. Next level. Not only did I feel great, we (6sense) were the bell of the ball at the show. We were the talk of the event. I literally could not walk the event halls without someone stopping me to say how much they enjoyed my talk. A fellow 6sensor that always has ‘constructive criticism’ for me after every talk, and I mean every talk… texted me “Amanda you were really magical on stage today.” Full stop. Usually it is followed up with… “but…don’t do x, y, z…” This time it was just to tell me she approved.
Why was this last time different? I’d love to say it is because my company is the hottest thing on the market and everyone loves artificial intelligence. But I always talk about AI for sales and marketing. And the content was pretty much the same. And while I do think 6sense is the hottest, that wasn’t it either.
So what is it? My ingredients for success:
- Don’t practice. Yes, that’s right, I said don’t practice. That is, don’t script it word for word and practice. Know your material. Really know it. But don’t script yourself. Just talk to the audience like you are talking to a friend.
- Talk super slow. Talk super fast. STOP. Yes, that’s right I said talk fast. I said go slow. And of course, the dramatic pause…the uncomfortable pause…right before the apex of your story…right before whatever it is you want them to walk away remembering. When you speak, it’s about creating music…speed up, slow down…STOP.
- Tell a story. We all know this. But really do it. Every slide should be woven into a story.
- Tell the audience what you are going to say, then say it. I started with “I’m going to tell you three stories:
- My story. The Cisco 6sense birth story.
- Your story. I’m going to tell you your story. I’m going to share your pain.
- NetSuite’s story prior to being sold to Oracle. How they use AI to 8x their marketing to sales goals.
- Above all, make the audience fall madly in love with you. They don’t really care about your content. They want to connect to you first. Then and only then will they take in your message. Otherwise you are in one ear out the other. But if they make an emotional connection to you…game over. You won. This is the most important one. Which ties to not being scripted. Be raw. Be vulnerable. Self-deprecation can help here. Don’t be afraid of it. But make them feel for your plight in life. Not just your content. People buy people first, not products. They first believe in you. Then they look to see if your product meets their needs. In my case, I started by sharing two vulnerable stories… I briefly shared that I had a near death experience just two weeks earlier and made a decision to live when lying on the beach. In that moment, I knew I had to keep going because I am blessed to know my purpose in life is to inspire women and girls…I had more to do, it wasn’t my time. “If my story inspires just one of you, your daughter, your mom, your aunt, your grandmother for that matter…I am complete. That is my truth. So while I would love to get you interested in AI, I care more that I touch your heart for all the girls in your life.”
- Give them a reason to approach you after. I intentionally did not go into any details of my near death story. I left them all hanging, wanting more…but when they came up to me at the event, I then got to make a genuine connection with them. Share your story and connect even deeper.
- What ONE thing do you want them to remember? Sadly, they will only remember one thing. They will connect with you. But when it comes to your content, you are lucky if they walk away remembering one thing… In my case I want our audience to know we predict for TIME, not just WHO. Game changing for sales and marketing and fundamentally different than our competition in the market.
- NO one gives a shit HOW we do “IT”… the AI. What they care about is WHY. People care about why. And how will it help them. They don’t care about our amazing technology. We all know this one but it’s really crazy how often marketers and sales people forget this golden rule. In fact, I think one of the Forrester analysts is doing a whole research piece on this topic.
- And my most important tip to myself. Breathe. Breathe, breathe. Just stop many times to breath. At times I told the audience. I’m pausing to take a breath. This too made me human.
- Don’t stand in one spot. But don’t move too much. Like the pace of your talk, do a dance…tip toe here and there, and use your limbs… move…like a beautiful contemporary piece…but without the jumps…or a ballet, but not hip hop 🙂