Engage Your Audience with Notes from These Great Speakers

Oprah Winfrey to Steve Jobs

What made Oprah Winfrey’s speech at the Golden Globes so incredibly powerful? It was Kairos. Kairos is the Greek word for occasion, when something occurs. In other words, making a great speech, isn’t just about what you say, it’s about when you say it. You can marshal every statistic in the world for your case and work on your delivery until it’s TED-worthy, and still fail to make an impact if your audience isn’t prepared to listen to what you have to say.

Warm them up by seeding the ground with private conversations before your big speech to warm up key players to your message. Or piggyback on industry news. With Kairos, timing matters.

In Oprah’s speech, she applied one of the most effective speaking strategies there is: storytelling. Read on for a breakdown of how you can bring a bit of Oprah into your speaking.

  1. Launch immediately into a story. The first few words out of your mouth when delivering a speech are the most important. Starting immediately with a story is the bold and confident move that set Oprah up for success with her first two words.
  2. Use precise details. When you only have a few minutes to deliver an important presentation, it is tempting to cut the details in the interest of time. This is a huge storytelling mistake. Your stories, and therefore your speeches, will be more engaging and effective if you keep the details in.
  3. Use a story to support your theme or thesis. This message was intensified because she told the story of one little girl (herself) who had dreams for what was possible.
  4. Tell more than one story. Five minutes and 20 seconds into her speech, Oprah drew the audience back in by telling the story.
  5. End the presentation with the opening story. Ending the presentation with a nod to the opening story is an expert speaking move that creates an immense sense of satisfaction and delight for the listeners.

Steve Jobs was a master showman. Steve Job made presentations look effortless because he put a lot of effort into making it great. Jobs practiced on stage over and over and over again. When is the last time you put in “hours of grueling practice?” The CEOs I know who are great presenters do practice much, much more than the average business professional. When a complex keynote appears effortless, there were hundreds of hours of planning, designing and rehearsing that made it look good.

Practice 20 for 20. For a standard 20-minute presentation rehearse the entire presentation from start to finish at least 20 times. In the first ten, refine message points or slides. In the next ten, focus on vocal delivery, body language, and nailing down the material. Your confidence will show.