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may 2016 year
may 2016 year
Managing Partner Alexander Saus
exclusively for Forbes

Manual on How to Make Your Speech Valuable for Your Audience

Managing Partner Alexander Saus
exclusively for Forbes

A few weeks ago I happened to attend lecture delivered by the well-known businessman which lasted nearly three hours. It later spurred me to create this manual containing my thoughts on what should be included in a speech in order for it to be of value to the listeners.

On the one hand, I am often invited to speak in front of different audiences. On the other hand, it makes me be more critical towards the level of professionalism when it comes to the lectures I listen to. On a scale from 1 to 5 it was worth 5 if compared to other speeches delivered by Ukrainian businessman and 4.5 in comparison with TED speakers. However, one question still keeps bugging me – how useful did this speech turn out to be in terms of personal growth of the audience.  Great lecture, structured material and relevance of the topic do not guarantee that your tips could be followed by your listeners.  Why in 99 % of cases majority of the audience does not actually benefit from listening to workshops or lectures? Below are the reasons for that as I see them.  

1. Speakers do not tell the audience how they managed to solve the problems voiced by the audience.

There are only few speakers in Ukraine who are not afraid to admit to have overcome their difficulties and frustration. The same applies to businessmen who do not wish to reveal how they earned their first million. However real life is not a fairy tale where a great idea is followed by big money at once.  In fact, only two out of dozen speakers I heard for the past year in Ukraine confessed that their victories had begun with desperation. They are Richard Brenson and the abovementioned speaker.

2. Everything is too perfect.

A speaker not only can but also should show his imperfection.  That’s the way of recognizing the right of the audience to be vulnerable. Only by admitted to this a man can move on. Dissertations, certificates and past successes often prevent us from developing personally and professionally. Therefore show-offs do not add value to the audience.

3. To learn something means to do it yourself. This cannot be taught.

We can learn something only by doing it. Listening to the lecture alone with no further steps taken will not bring any results.

I have to admit that I may have been spoiled by western education. Do you know how lectures are given in London universities? A professor sits in the center of the audience consisting of about eighty people and speaks to the students as of they were his equals. Students end up talking nearly as much as the lecture himself during the class. Ukraine unfortunately lacks such culture. We are not used to asking questions and expressing own opinions. That’s the reason why I offered goodies for interesting questions during my last workshop. Ukrainian audience does not ask questions for the fear of appearing not educated enough. Although to me the more there are complicated questions, the better. From my point of view, the lecture which does not leave the audience asking questions is the worst of all. The best case scenario is to take the lecture aback with the question he doesn’t know the answer to. I wish it happened more often. However very often people who have not asked a single question like to leave indignant reviews stating that the lecturer has not provided enough information or case studies and after all, he spoke unclearly. It makes me think that they are the ones attending workshops just to clear their conscience and to keep doing nothing. Since the question is hard, the best thing is to keep sitting on the couch instead of changing something.

4. There are no universal rules – everyone is responsible for their own life and their future.

The best outcome of the lecture is to encourage the audience to work on their own solutions to their problems. Besides, the lecturer needs to structure the material and present it to skeptical people he doesn’t know during three hours, which is in fact the best way to comprehend it.

It’s worth admitting that often we expect the speaker to give us the magical formula of success which would allow getting everything by doing nothing.

The lecture is a success if the listeners are not only eager to hear more and bring their friends along to the next event, but if they are willing to start changing something in their everyday life.
The lecture is a success if the listeners are not only eager to hear more and bring their friends along to the next event, but if they are willing to start changing something in their everyday life.

At the same time, such magical formula doesn’t exist. All lectures containing great recommendations are links in one chain able to bring the listeners to the very height they chose to decide upon. Please note that  I am not talking about TED speakers who deliver lectures only to raise money for charity or put the audience under mass suggestion. In most cases we strive to call the audience to action in order to achieve personal advancement by constantly following number of recommended steps to reach certain goals. That’s what I am looking for when listening to other speakers. 

Finally, it’s worth mentioning that when it comes to the speech mentioned in the beginning, a mere “thank you” to the speaker would not be enough as it was the best speech I had heard for the past year.