When was the last time you were excited to hear a speaker who wasn’t excited about their message? Can you remember? Not likely – because it has probably never happened. Why? If the speaker doesn’t have any enthusiasm about their subject, neither does their audience. And the opposite is also true: if the speaker possesses great enthusiasm, so will their audience. When it comes to public speaking, if you can’t wait to say it, they can’t wait to hear it.
Powerful Speaking Tips
There are many practices you can employ to create an atmosphere of anticipation. Some take time and practice, but others – like these four – you can begin using immediately.
1. PUBLIC SPEAKING PLANNING: TURN THE FAUCET ON.
Louis L’Amour, the highly prolific bestselling author of Western novels, gave this advice to writers: “Start writing, no matter what. The water does not flow until the faucet is turned on.” That’s also true for speakers who want to create anticipation. From the time you receive an invitation, to the time you write your message, to the time you prepare to deliver it, to the moment you step in front of your audience, your sense of anticipation needs to be flowing. And nobody but you can turn it on.
When you are asked to speak, what is your reaction? Excitement? Fear? Nerves? If you can turn on your sense of anticipation, believing that you can do a good job and that you can help people, it will start you on a great track because anticipation is a key to self-discipline. If you procrastinate, it may be because you do not anticipate that something positive will happen. But if you expect that the speech you are going to prepare will make a positive difference for people, you’ll hardly be able to wait to get started.
When you’ve turned on the faucet of anticipation, creativity also flows. You get more ideas while you’re writing your message. That will make you even more excited about your message. As a result, you will walk on stage excited and the communication will flow. And when people take action in response to your message, possibilities also flow. It all starts when you turn on the faucet. Don’t wait for an opportunity to start getting ready. Get ready and then find an opportunity.
2. PUBLIC SPEAKING PREPARATION: SET THE TABLE SO PEOPLE KNOW “FOOD” IS COMING.
For the people in your audience, listening to your communication should be like going to a great restaurant. As a public speaker, you are like the chef, maître d’, and server all wrapped into one. You know the menu and you control the service. You can create the atmosphere for your audience and signal what’s coming, which builds people’s sense of anticipation as they wait for you to serve them their “meal.”
Giving people a glimpse of what’s coming and building their excitement to hear can be one of the best parts of public speaking. Expert speaker John Maxwell utilizes phrases like this to achieve that effect:
- “I woke up this morning filled with anticipation about our time together.”
- “I am going to share something with you that I have never shared before.”
- “I’ve created this lesson just for you. You are the first to ever hear this!”
- “Look at the person sitting beside you and say to them, ‘You’re going to learn something today.’”
- “What I’m going to share with you has life-changing possibilities.”
Phrases like this are fine china, beautiful flowers, and gracious greetings in your audience’s experience. They build positive anticipation before you ever serve the courses and feed people. Use some that best fit your personality and public speaking style, and then use them to build anticipation in your own way.
3. PUBLIC SPEAKING PARTICIPATION: BE A FOUNTAIN, NOT A DRAIN.
Recently, people have used a great phrase to describe how to treat others: “Be a fountain, not a drain,” a saying coined by baseball player Rex Hudler. Those words also express how we should strive to treat others in all our communication, but in particular, our public speaking. Tim Elmore, founder and CEO of Growing Leaders, elaborates:
In relationships with others, most people are usually a fountain or a drain – they either flow and overflow onto others, or they just drain people of their energy. My guess is that you’ve met both kinds of people: They either refresh the life in others or they dry it up.
As you prepare to speak to people, you need to think of yourself as a fountain. You need to be someone who gives to others. In relationships, we can either be a plus or a minus. Being a minus causes people to avoid you. Being a plus draws people to you and creates a sense of anticipation.
As you speak, your attitude will pass on to your audience. Monitor your attitude and keep it positive. Allow the excitement you’ve built in yourself to flow to them.
4. PUBLIC SPEAKING PROJECTION: LIVE ON THE OTHER SIDE OF “YES.”
There is a relationship between what we expect and what we experience. If you expect every person, challenge, and opportunity in life to give you a no, that’s what you will get. If you always expect life’s answers to be yes, you will get them. And if you live on the other side of yes, you can experience a life that believes in nearly limitless possibilities.
This is no pie-in-the-sky, blind faith approach to public speaking – or life, for that matter. Research shows that people who believe in themselves use more of their brains. They have more brainpower to solve problems because they approach them from many different angles and adapt their approaches as needed.
It is impossible to overemphasize the power of positivity and belief in yourself and your audience. In fact, creating positive anticipation in an audience is almost possible without those things. Philosopher Soren Kierkegaard said, “If I were to wish for anything, I should not wish for wealth and power, but for the passionate sense of the potential, for the eye which, ever young and ardent, sees the possible. Pleasure disappoints. Possibilities never.”
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Dr. John C. Maxwell has been a public speaker and motivational teacher for more than 50 years. In his book, The 16 Undeniable Laws of Communication, he shares everything he’s learned from a lifetime of communication. This blog post has been adapted from the book’s ninth chapter, “The Law of Anticipation.”