When it comes to making an impression in a speech, one of the most important things to remember is that people don’t care about facts.
What? That can’t be right! You might be thinking.
Here’s an example: I recently heard a speech by a businessman who owns his own company. He told us about how he started it and detailed all the services it provided, giving us all the facts and figures. Did I care? No.
It was BORING.
If you want to capture the attention of your audience, don’t put them to sleep with facts. Here are some tips on how to keep people interested and, most important, awake.
- PEOPLE RESONATE WITH STORIES, NOT FACTS
Once upon a time…
I am an invisible man…
This is the saddest story I have ever heard…
These are considered some of the best opening lines of books. Why? Because they capture the imagination. People are wired to hear stories. It goes back to sitting around in the evening, before radio, TV, the Internet and Netflix, when entertainment was storytelling.
Use stories to tell your facts.
Compare this: “More than one in three women are married before the age of 15 worldwide.” to:
“Sonali Khatun was just 14 years old when her parents told her she would be getting married. She dropped out of school. Her wedding was arranged in just 14 days.
“She did not want to [get married], but we forced her, because in villages, when an adolescent girl is unmarried, people start to talk,” Matiura Bibi, Khatun’s mother, told the American Jewish World Service, an advocacy group. “After the marriage, we realized the boy was not nice. He was suspicious of Sonali. He started to control her and argue with her. I understood the marriage wouldn’t last.” Sonali got a divorce and faced being taunted by the girls of the village, but she is now an independent, successful working woman.” Read more here:
By telling facts through a story, it gives the audience someone or something to visualize and identify with. By using stories that include facts, your speech will resonate with the audience, causing it to be remembered.
- HOW A SPEECH MAKES YOU FEEL IS MORE IMPORTANT THAN FACTUAL CONTENT
Now that it’s election time, we see candidates who are distorting the truth for the purposes of furthering their campaigns.
Here are some examples:
“Arab Americans cheered during the Sept. 11th attacks.” – Donald Trump (untrue)
“Then United States is going to accept 250,000 Syrian refugees” – Carly Fiorina (untrue)
“Hispanic and teen unemployment went up under President Obama.” – Ted Cruz (untrue)
“The handling of secret emails through a private server was permitted” – Hillary Clinton (untrue)
“Climate Change is directly related to the growth of terrorism” – Bernie Sanders (overstating)
Studies have shown that misinformation has lingering effects, even if a falsehood is quickly corrected. This is especially true if the “fact” ties in with a person’s beliefs and resonates with them.
We’ve all seen items going around the Internet claiming to be “facts.” A famous one from 2014 was a woman who claimed to have three breasts. She circulated a photo claiming she’d had a 3rd breast implant in the center. In actuality, it was a prosthesis. However, this “fact” did lead to her recording a song and music video in Florida.
Why have the three-breasted woman and the not-candid candidates captured the imagination? The things being said aren’t true, but they evoked emotion. If you listener feels an emotional reaction, what’s being said will resonate more strongly with them.
- NOVELTY OR SURPRISE EXCITES THE BRAIN
Let’s go back to politics. A master of media attention is Donald Trump. He says things that are outrageous and has been discourteous to other candidates during debates. What has this done? It’s put a lot of focus on him because the media likes sensational stories– and so do we.
When Darren LaCroix won the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking, he walked out on the stage– and fell down. He stayed down for a purposefully long time, making the audience uncomfortable.
This was a masterful move. An audience views new information from the “reptile” brain, the part that processes information through a prism of fear and boredom. They’re afraid of new ideas, but they want to have their imagination captured. What Darren LaCroix did was shocking and, thus, excited the audience. It got everyone’s attention.
Think about your speech content and how to incorporate an unexpected moment into the presentation. It will keep your audience’s attention and make your presentation memorable.