“It’s a gift to have a voice and it’s a privilege to use that voice to share your message with the world…”
I knew this was true but it didn’t sink in until I — literally — lost my voice.
It happened at the worst possible time… in the middle of a workshop that I was hosting for 40 of my top students! They’d flown in from all across the country (and the world) to hear what I had to say and I couldn’t say a word.
I was horrified and disappointed but like all the other dark “clouds” in my life this one had a silver lining…
The entire experience fired me up. It inspired me to write The Authentic Voice Pledge, which totally transformed how I use my voice to serve and contribute (you can read about my experience and find the Pledge here).
That happened a few years ago. I hadn’t thought about it for a while but a recent question from my student — let’s call her Linda — brought it all back.
Linda was about to give an important speech that could change everything in her business and bring her the level of success she’d been dreaming of for years.
The biggest problem? Like most people, public speaking wasn’t at the top of Linda’s list of favorite things to do.
So, she came to me. She’d seen me present on stage and wanted to know if I could give her helpful hints on how she could get her audience excited and engaged.
As I listed out my best techniques for Linda, I thought of my Authentic Voice Pledge and how I’d vowed to “use this voice of mine to change the world and create the life and relationships I desire.”
In honor, of that pledge and in honor of every one of us using our voice to speak up, speak out and speak our truth, I’m sharing my “Rule of 5” or my top 5 secrets to command the microphone — in person or online — and wow any crowd.
Rule #1: Focus on the Audience
If you’re onstage or in front of the camera and you’re thinking, “I hope this outfit doesn’t make me look fat,” or “what if I forget what I want to say,” guess what?
You’re focusing on yourself, not your audience.
When you’re worried about how you look or sound, you’ll weaken your performance. Your audience will sense your nervous energy and start to feel distracted or bored.
Great speakers focus on their audience. They think about how they can make a difference and be of service to them.
It’s a pro technique that will give you the confidence and conviction you need to grab attention and deliver a powerful, memorable speech.
Rule #2: Share Stories
If you’re human, you love stories. It’s just the way the brain works. We learn better and remember more when a message or lesson is delivered with a great story.
So, take a closer look at your speech or presentation and see where you can include a story to highlight key ideas.
You get bonus points if you can share a personal story that will let your audience see beyond your “polished, speaker persona” and see the real you.
Stories — especially personal stories that make you relatable — can positively influence even the toughest crowds so don’t skip this rule (to learn more about writing authentic, powerful stories, check out the Definitive Guide to Storytelling for Business).
Rule #3: Shoot for Clarity, Not Cleverness
Check your speech or script for what I like to call “10-cent” words — these are long, complicated, unusual words few people use and even fewer understand.
When you find one of these 10-cent words in your content, toss it out and replace it with easy-to-understand language that you’d use in everyday conversation.
Owning the microphone and connecting with your audience isn’t about proving you’re super smart.
It’s about being understood.
So, forget cleverness and choose clarity. It’s an instant performance booster that will draw in your audience and keep them hooked on what you have to say.
Rule #4: Encourage Engagement
A great speech or presentation is always a two-way street.
It’s not just about you getting the words out to your audience. It’s about getting your audience interested and engaged so they become active participants.
The best way to do this is to add relevant, relatable questions in your content.
For instance, if your talk is about “overcoming the fear of public speaking”, you could start with this question, “Raise your hand… how many of you here absolutely love public speaking?”
This simple question will instantly get their attention and keep them interested long enough to hear what you have to say next.
Rule #5: Move, Move, Move
The best speakers aren’t afraid to take up space. Translation: they move from one end of the stage to another.
Movement grabs attention. When you move back and forth, you’ll get your audience to stay focused.
And don’t stop there… get your audience to move too — like I did at last year’s Message to Money LIVE 🙂
This is extra important if your presentation is longer than an hour or if you’re hosting an all-day or multi-day workshop.
Think about how you can include breaks that give people a chance to get up and get moving. Play a fun song and ask your audience to join you in a 3-minute dance or get them to stand up and stretch.
You can take this rule off the stage.
Dance and exercise breaks also work for online presentations and instead of moving across the stage, get expressive with your face and hands — use smiles, frowns and hand movements to highlight important points in your content.
Practice the Rule of 5 and you’ll see a significant improvement in your presentations onstage and online.
But I want you to think beyond a great performance…
I want you to think about your voice and your message as instruments of change. The tools you can use to transform one life, many lives…
And maybe even the world.
Nobel Peace Prize winner and activist, Malala Yousafzai said…
“When the world is silent, even one voice becomes powerful.”
Think of every speaking opportunity that comes your way — in your business and in your life — as a gift and a blessing.
When you do, you’ll find your nerves start to settle, and your words start to flow.
What’s the message you want to share with your voice and how do you plan to the “Rule of 5” to do that?
Please share in the comments… I’d love to know!
*Photo by Richard Clyborne of Music Strive
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Beautiful piece. Thank you for this wonderful eye-opener.
For sure,everything you have written word by word makes me
stronger and happy.
When is the world ever silent?!
Great reminder that the focus is supposed to be the audience so be clear, keep their attention with questions and stories, shake it up with movement and different speaking tools, and enjoy the process. Thanks Marisa.
This is great! I especially love the Move Move Move. Thanks so much for sharing these great tips with us Marisa! I’ve been on your list for a long time and have to say You are awesome!
Certified Search Marketing Specialist
Marisa, you have a lot of love and energy. Clark Cooper told me you were special and had an interesting background. I’m just starting my coaching business to entrepreneurs, after 40 years of developing learning systems and video for Fortune 500 companies. This new marketplace and online world, wow, so different! So I’m coming out of my behind-the-scenes mindset and will be up on stage to promote my opportunities to bless others, as you have. Thanks for the solid reminders of what’s important — especially the focus on them, perfect! Hope to meet you some day.