Blog Newsroom Nordic Business Forum 2020 Speaker Contest 2020

7 Secret Habits of the Highly Effective Speaker

With a bit over a week left to apply to our 2020 Speaker Contest, we wanted to help those of you who still want to improve their speech. We understand that it can be very scary to even think about getting on stage in front of thousands of people. But we are also sure that you are up to the challenge!

“One of the most common fears in the world is public speaking. I’ve been speaking for 20 years and I still get nervous! But every time I face my fears, my life becomes richer.”

Sara Blakely, Founder and CEO, Spanx

To help you face your fears and strengthen your speech, we will to tap into some of the questions we have noticed recurring among the applicants with the help of our former speakers: What does it take to be a great speaker? How do I go from good to excellent? How do I prepare my speech for 10,000+ people?

Well, wonder no longer! Here’s a list of 7 secret habits of highly effective speakers that will put you on the path to success.

1. Start (and end) strong

“I think the best advice probably that I’ve ever got is you have to nail your takeoff and your landing, and if you can do that, then everything in the middle will turn out just fine. If you don’t nail your takeoff and your landing, it doesn’t really matter what you say in the middle. Spend 80% of your time and effort on your takeoff and your landing.”

Marcus Buckingham, author, journalist, and entrepreneur.

2. Be authentic to yourself

“Just be yourself. There’s a reason people wanted to hear you speak, so come out and just be yourself. Be authentic. Don’t try to do things that are out of your reach. If your basic skill set is mechanical, talk about mechanical things. That’s why people came to listen to you.”

Aswath Damodaran, a professor at the Stern School of Business.

3. Teach, don’t preach

“Know your content. That’s number one. People say, do I get nervous? And I never do because I know what I’m talking about. If I were to ever get nervous, it would be because I was unsure about what I was saying. Number two is, don’t say platitudes. People say in speeches, ‘You need to focus on your customer.’ With any statement where there isn’t an alternative point of view discussed, there’s no point saying it. It has no meaning at all. Three is, don’t take credit for things that you didn’t come up with. Don’t tell me you invented a term that you didn’t. But, do make sure that you understand all of the content and other work that’s been done in the area where you’re speaking. Number four, tell stories. People learn through actual stories where meaning really comes to life. And number five, I always try and use some humor. You need to get the audience enjoying themselves. And that’s you go a long way to winning them over. Make it an enjoyable thing.”

Don Tapscott, media theorist, and author.

4. Be helpful and show empathy

“Number one, you will be effective to the extent you really care and are compassionate about the challenges facing the people you’re addressing. If you really care about making a difference in their life and helping them multiply their own human impact, helping them deal with the frustrations they have in their everyday environment, then I think you’re likely to be effective. If you’re living merely in the world of ideas and if this is about your intellectual curiosity or demonstrating your intellectual credibility or credentials, then you may be interesting, you may be entertaining, but you’re unlikely to be effective. Empathy and compassion are the first and most important things for any speaker. And then the second thing is being able to escape conventional wisdom because, if you want to help individuals with difficult and persistent problems, you have to recognize that if those problems are difficult and persistent, we’re not going to solve them with more of the same. You have to look outside of that problem area. You have to look at other fields of science. You have to look at other disciplines. You have to look in other places to discover helpful answers.”

Gary Hamel, a professor at the London Business School and director at Management Lab.

5. Tell stories with heart

“Speak about something that you care deeply about because, if you’re passionate about something, then your energy and your interest in the subject will come forth. And when you are passionate about something, everybody sits up in their seats and pays attention. Also, remember, people want to hear stories. We are animals that evolved listening to stories. Long before there was anything written down, we told stories. It’s important even in a short talk to tell a story because that’s what people want to hear – so make it a good one. That’s my advice. Be passionate, tell a story.”

John Mackey, co-founder & CEO of Whole Foods Market.

6. Focus on outcomes

“Get out of your own head and get out of your own knowledge and try to put yourselves in the position of a person sitting in the audience who knows very little about your topic. Be someone who has not done the research, has not done the work, is sitting there naive but interested. Think about what you want them to conclude or take away, or how you want them to look at the world differently after your x-minutes on stage. And then work backward from there.”

Andrew McAfee, author & co-founder of the MIT Initiative on the Digital Economy.

7. Help just one person

“Focus on what are you are giving your audience instead of how you’re being judged. It really doesn’t matter at all what they think of you. It matters what you’re able to give to them. And of course, the paradox of that is, the more you really can operate that way, the better people will judge you in the end. But that’s really not even the point. I used to get really nervous before speaking. I don’t so much now. But when I do feel the butterflies come back, I laugh and tell myself, ‘I know that there is at least one person in this audience whose child will maybe live a better life, or who will reach higher goals at work or something, because of some of what I’m hoping to share today.’ And if that happens for only one person, then it’s good. Of course, I’m hoping it’ll happen to way more than one person. But having that goal out there really gives me that kind of conviction.”

Susan Cain, author & co-founder of the Quiet Revolution.

About the Speaker Contest

Speaker Contest is Nordic Business Forum’s initiative to find individuals with fresh perspectives and management ideas and give them a platform to speak – it’s a way to crowdsource talent on an entirely new scale and bring to light some of the best that business has to offer. This year the contest is hosted together with Oslo Business Forum. The winner is offered a spot on stage both at Nordic Business Forum 2020 and Oslo Business Forum 2020 with a 50,000 € fee for the speaking engagement.

Are you interested in applying? Write your pitch, film your audition, and make your submission by 14 February.

Apply for the Speaker Contest>

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