It was all very last minute. As I recall I didn’t even have a couple of hours to prepare. In fact I was rehearsing my speech in the car on the way to the event, but when I stood up to speak there was no fear. There was not worry about the mistakes I might make. There was just this sense of amazement about what I had learned in this intense desire to share it with my listeners. I felt carried along on this wave of energy and enthusiasm.
I remember how my listeners eyes were shocking me, how their faces were bright, and there was this sense of wonder and discovery in the room. That was certainly not the most well-prepared or the most polished speech I ever gave in my life, but it was without a doubt, the most memorable and it taught me the power of enthusiasm to bring a topic to life and create a memorable experience for your listeners.
Enthusiasm might not be the only thing that you have to think about in order to be a good public speaker, but I do believe it’s one of the critical things. Your ability to feel and express enthusiasm could make the difference between you being forgettable and memorable.
How do you find enthusiasm helping you to begin to incorporate enthusiasm into your speaking and presentations? Well, let me tell you first what enthusiasm isn’t. It’s not about raising your voice, talking fast, or waving your arms with a silly grin on your face. Enthusiasm, real enthusiasm will never put you in danger of being melodramatic and over-the-top.
Real enthusiasm comes from inside. It’s the result of immersing yourself in your material until you’re possessed by a sense of its importance and its significance for your listeners. You have to be able to answer the question, “Why does this matter? Why should I spend my time talking about this? And why should they spend their time listening?”
You need to be able to answer the question, “What is my motivation for sharing this message?” And it has to be an answer that changes the way you feel, that changes your state of being, not just in the answer in your head, so once you’re feeling something for your message, how do you express enthusiasm?
Well, first of all, you express enthusiasm by opening up and allowing it flow not tightening up and working hard at it, so the guy who stands up and goes, “This is amazing! This is important! This is something you should know!” is probably feeling something, but it’s all bottled up and his listeners probably aren’t feeling all that much.
On the other hand, if you’re able to go, “This is amazing. This is important. This is something YOU should know” then that starts here and it’s flowing out to here and nothing is getting in the way, so it’s much more likely your listeners are feeling something.
Another thing that’s required to express enthusiasm is this ability to open up and get fully engaged and really invest some energy in the interaction with your listeners. The person who’s standing at the front of the room speaking with a flat voice, a blank face, and little to know body movement is not effectively communicating enthusiasm or passion, and interestingly, most speakers that I work with have very little sense of what they’re actually giving to their listeners when they speak. They think they’re smiling, but they’re not. They think they’re projecting their voice appropriately, but they’re not. They think they’re using gestures effectively, but they’re not.
It turns out that your own perception of what you’re doing out there is unreliable, that it’s out of line with what your listeners are actually seeing and hearing, so expressing enthusiasm means giving yourself permission to put a little more energy into that interaction with your listeners than what might feel natural or typical for you.
Enthusiasm isn’t just going to show up. It’s not going to fall out of the sky. You can’t wait for your listeners to bring that to the process. You have to bring enthusiasm into the room, so find it in yourself and give yourself permission to put it out there into the room and watch how your listeners respond.
I sometimes wonder whether after all these years I am still trying to recapture the magic of that speech I described at the beginning of this video. I know that sometimes I’ve come really close, and other times I’ve fallen very short, but I do know that to the extent that I’ve been able to feel the importance and significance of my message and to the extent I’ve been able to open myself up and generously invest that energy in the interaction with my listeners, some remarkable things can happen and public speaking can become a powerful way to influence the lives of others.
To learn more about ways you can develop skills that will enhance your ability to communicate with more enthusiasm, go to voiceandspeech.com and download the free report The Sound of Success.