The word, “enthusiasm,” derives from a Greek term that translates as “possessed by a god.” In English, this means you’re inspired—given breath—by whatever you passionately believe in. As a professional speaker, if you lack this passion, you’ll never fully convert your audience members to your point of view—no matter how exciting, revolutionary, or invigorating your topic may be.
Think back to your favorite teachers in high school or college. Which ones did you enjoy best: the ones who droned on, imparting dry facts, or the animated ones who really sounded like they cared about what they were teaching? In my case, those who influenced me most were those who obviously enjoyed what they did and contributed positively to their fields. They actually lived it through their love of it.
How can you tap into that well of professional passion and enthusiasm, so your emotion transfers to your audiences? These tips have worked for me.
- Find a way to love the topic. If you can’t believe in the topic so intensely you love to talk about it, then you’ll have trouble communicating your points to the audience. At the very least, find some aspect of it you can learn to love: a key takeaway, strategy, or story that makes your heart sing. Believe in what you’re saying, because most audiences can detect a fake almost instantly. Prepare carefully, and understand the topic so well you can’t help but be enthusiastic about it.
- Live the topic. If you teach productivity skills like I do, you’d better be responsive and reliable in your business. If you’re a diversity speaker, I hope your everyday language reflects inclusion and tolerance. If you talk about customer service, yours should be stellar. If you’re a leadership speaker, I sure hope you’ve led something. Your passion will show through as you “walk the talk” of your daily existence.
- Be animated. Show your enthusiasm in your actions. Gesture widely (especially when speaking to a large group from the stage), smile, let the excitement shine through in your voice, and maintain eye contact with people in the audience. Be genuinely excited!
- See and feel your passion. Before stepping on the platform, ask yourself: When I feel passionate about something, how do I stand? How do I move? How do I sound? See yourself presenting your topic in a passionate, engaging way, and then make it a reality. Enthusiasm requires energy, so give it 110 percent.
- Beware the Law of Familiarity. Once you’ve done something for five or 10 years, or you’ve told a story 100 times, you may know it so well you find it hard to get excited about it. But remember: This is the first time your audience has heard it. To them, it’s utterly new. If you can’t get excited about it, how can they? Use that realization to reignite your passion, pass it on to your audience, and fan the flames of their fascination. Put yourself back “in the moment” of your stories and relive them; don’t just tell them.
- Keep the audience’s best interests at heart. Even when you’re selling something, your goal should be to serve the audience in the highest possible way. Don’t focus too tightly on yourself. Never make it about you; presentations are always about your audience. Your goal is to help them improve their lives somehow through changes in behavior you’re recommending, so focus on the benefits you’re offering. True conviction works best here, not just enthusiasm.
Most people would prefer to listen to anything presented enthusiastically over even the most important information presented dully. Do everything you can to transform your presentation from ordinary to unforgettable. Under the right conditions, you and your audience can feed off each others’ passion and excitement, and you’ll create something special that will change their lives—and yours.
Laura Stack, MBA, CSP, is an expert in productivity. For more than 20 years, Stack has worked with business leaders to execute more efficiently, boost performance, and accelerate results in the workplace. Her company, The Productivity Pro, Inc., provides productivity workshops around the globe to help attendees achieve Maximum Results in Minimum Time. Stack is the bestselling author of six books, with more than 20 foreign editions, published by Random House, Wiley, and Berrett-Koehler, including her newest work, “Execution IS the Strategy” (March 2014). An expert in the field of performance and workplace issues, Stack has been featured on the CBS Early Show, CNN, the Wall Street Journal, and The New York Times. Connect via her website, Facebook, or Twitter.