John McDougall: Hi. I’m John McDougall, and welcome to the Authority Marketing Roadmap. Today, my guest is Henry Zacchini, author and professor of writing and public speaking. Today, we will be discussing tips for public speaking. Henry, welcome.
Henry Zacchini: Welcome, John.
John: How do you keep calm when you’re doing public speaking?
Henry: You don’t do it like I’m doing with you right now.
John: What do you mean?
Henry: You’re making me very nervous, just looking at you across the room.
Henry: Very nervous. You’re a human being, you’re in a body and you’re asking me questions. That makes me very nervous.
John: How do you stay calm?
Henry: Let me take a deep breath. That’s the first thing. The second thing, the most important thing is, really it’s about you. It’s not about me. You want this interview. I’m giving you some information, which is good. So it’s really for you that I’m doing this.
John: It take the focus off of…
John: …the ego really, right?
Henry: The ego, yeah. Remember to breathe. You’ve got to breathe. More important than that, I know you fairly well as we’ll admit to the audience. Obviously, I’ve known you a number of years, so it’s a little more comfortable, this setting.
When you go before an audience, it’s always important ‑‑ and whoever you’re talking to, whether it’s a business, presentations — know something about who you are talking to. Know your audience. It’ll make you feel more comfortable because you know what they sort of expect, what you’re coming there to do. That’s the important thing.
That’s one of the most important things, is to make it about them by preparing for them, and making sure you breathe. When you come into the room and you address them, always look at them. Do not look at your notes. Look at them. And smile before you say anything. Make that connection.
One of the oddest things I heard on the radio this morning, I’ll bring it up. This is a little odd, but let’s talk about it anyway. Speaking of Adolph Hitler, as we haven’t been.
John: Public speaking tips, uh‑oh.
Henry: He published a public speaking text. No, not really. He was one of the greatest public speakers that ever lived. He was one of the most demonic, horrible people to ever live, too. The scary thing about that is, even someone that crazy was able to be an incredibly powerful public speaker.
The one tool he used always that made him so convincing, he always played off the audience. He always watched how the audience was responding to him, and addressed that. It’s so critical to watch your audience. If they’re not paying attention, that’s a good thing. If they’re looking away, if they’re dozing, that’s a good thing. You must watch the audience.
John: Respond and be in tune with them, basically I think you’re saying.
Henry: If you get applause, exactly. If you get applause, respond to it. He was the master at that. He’d go on for four or five hours sometimes, because people would listen to him. Mainly he wanted to know what they wanted to hear. He had an idea, but then he tried these ideas out.
Some politicians do this a lot when they go before a group. They’ll try ideas out just to float them, see who responds. Then, the next time, they know exactly how to play an audience that looks like them. It sounds like you’re manipulating the audience, but you’re not. You’re giving them the respect that’s due to them. You’re listening to them, as well as speaking to them.
John: Oddly I heard, I think it was Dr. Cialdini, the author of Influence, speak a little bit about the concept of authority and how even someone like Hitler, where these real negative, bad people, got a lot of respect and authority. They used certain tactics.
So, it can be used for good or evil, but the bottom line is, you have to prepare. And hopefully, it’s good people preparing and using these tips.
Henry: So, if you’re a bad person, don’t listen to this. If you’re a good person, you need to pay attention. Please don’t hear this. No, it is really very effective. It really is the most effective tool of all I think, making that audience the number one thing. It’s about them, not you.
John: Yeah, that really helped me. It still helps. I remember early in my speaking career getting nervous. I still do sometimes. Whenever I do, I always bring that tip up. If I’m nervous, and there’s butterflies, that’s OK. It might mean that I’m thinking about myself. If I’m thinking about the audience and I’m there to serve, that does help me to calm down. I can relate to that.
Henry: It’s just human nature. We spend most of our time thinking about ourselves. In the situation when you’re in front of other people, you have to make an effort to put them first. It makes it easier for you by doing that.
John: What are some tips to connect more with the audience?
Henry: The best way to connect to the audience, and I think everyone knows this, is like anything else, it’s when you can relate to them by telling them a story or an idea that they can relate to from your own personal life, whatever it might be. I’m sure you tried this in front of audiences.
It seems a little personal, like you’re exposing yourself a bit, but an audience loves that. They will much more listen to a personal story than they will to any lecture at all. If you ever go to any of these high performance pitches from pitchmen, they’ll always tell their personal story. How they struggled. How they overcame this. How they did this or didn’t do that. It’s beautiful.
Right away, people identify. “Oh, you’re just like me. You overcame everything. Isn’t this great?” These are kind of the negative ways that public speaking is used, but they’re powerful ways. We can learn a lot from this. We can learn a lot from pitchmen. We can learn a lot from televangelists, whatever you like to believe in like that, because they give you that personal echo of yourself.
John: Right, but if you launch in ‑‑ and I know, again, I probably still do some of this ‑‑ I can definitely remember times where I would just launch right into, “SEOs, or the top 19 things, it’s this, it’s this, it’s that.” People are just sitting there. Some people are just glazed over.
You’d say some more warm story of how, like you said, maybe you failed. Tell some failure stories or some self‑effacing humor, things like that. The great speakers…
Henry: Failure always works. Fail a lot, yeah.
John: And share it.
Henry: Share it. Oh yeah, it’s a good thing. Failure’s a good thing, especially when you’re giving a public speech. That’s really the most important thing is to keep the audience attached. You said it, and it’s the truth, that the audience is probably going to forget almost everything you say, so you’ve got to keep them coming back, and maybe you bring up another personal story. You look at Martin Luther King and some great speakers like that, who were able to really share their own personal experience with other people, and continue to bring it back to that.
John: How do you offer clear takeaways your audience can use right away, and/or a call to action at the end?
Henry: The call to action is something you’ve been developing throughout the entire speech, whatever you’re delivering. It’s always got to be embedded in there, especially embedded with an image, a concept, an idea, a simple thought. I have a dream, whatever that might be. Tear that wall down. All these great speakers, look at what they do.
The best way to learn is like the best way to learn to write is to read. The best way to learn to give public speeches is to look at people who do it well. They always have a theme, an idea, which is an image. Not so much a concrete idea, like SEO helps everyone 100 percent of the time, whatever that is.
It’s what it does as an image. Keep repeating that. At the end of it, always come back to that image. Leave them with an image ‑‑ not so much an idea, but an image.
John: An image and some kind of a clear…
Henry: Some kind of a clear…
John: Like what this talk is about.
Henry: Tear this wall down. I have a dream. It won’t be that heroic or great, but it still should echo that kind of approach. That kind of approach…an image. “You can succeed, too.” If you’ve ever heard pitchmen doing that kind of thing, they’ll always say, “Now I want you to join me on this road.”
Henry: “You can fill your pockets, too.”
John: A little more inspirational and pep‑talk, almost.
Henry: Absolutely. Don’t be afraid of that because the audience wants that. They want to be left with something, so “what am I taking away from this? Can I be successful? Can this work for me?” Yes, and here’s how in a nutshell, in an image, yeah.
John: What are some other tips in your years of public speaking at colleges and teaching writing? Are there common trends that you see? Maybe students making mistakes?
Henry: Yeah. The common trends are based on what we just talked about. The overall thing is that…and it seems odd, but we talked about it earlier and it came up and you wanted to use it. What does that have to do with public speaking? And we talked about listening.
Practice listening, before you do anything. Practice listening. Not just a group, get with a friend and see how long it takes you before you interrupt them. And try to understand…
John: I might have to work on that one.
Henry: You and everyone else. We all do the same thing. In fact, I was talking to a group of students one time, and we were on this subject. The person began asking a question, and I interrupted them immediately…immediately. I said, “There’s the perfect example of what you shouldn’t be doing.”
Really, public speaking is listening…listening to an audience, being aware of human interaction. So much more in conveyed by a look, by a gesture. That goes for you, too. When you’re up in front of people, remember that they are not listening to your voice so much. They are watching you.
They’re saying, “Can I trust this person?” It’s the way you move, the way you look at them, the way you gesture. From your end it’s important. Also for you to learn, and me to learn, because I need to learn ‑‑ I interrupt all the time ‑‑ is that when you listen to someone, listen to everything they have to say, and then rephrase it for them.
It sounds like you’re saying that if I take this sort of product, it will work for me. If I do these things, is that correct? “That’s correct. You’ve heard me correctly.” It’s a communication thing which only is extended when the audience and the speaker is taking place. But it makes you pay attention to the audience.
John: You don’t just mean listen to what the audience is saying when they’re giving you feedback. You mean that potentially, but in general, mastered the art of listening.
Henry: Master the art of listening and watching another person, seeing what they look like when they’re telling you something. Because you can use those tools when you’re talking to someone else, but you can also use them to help yourself in all sorts of conversations.
Public speaking is simply another form of talking back and forth to a person. That’s all it is. The more you can look at your audience and treat them like real people, and have some idea, because you’ve studied it beforehand, and you know who they are, where they came from — you can develop that kind of communication with them a lot more easily, and make yourself more relaxed.
John: Are there homework assignments that you give to your students that are anything to do with listening?
Henry: The homework assignment I give them all the time is to go out this day and see how many times you will not interrupt someone when they’re speaking.
John: Really? This is in the public speaking class?
Henry: Just go out and sit with someone. When they start talking to you, do not interrupt them. Listen to them. You can’t be falling asleep, I don’t tell them to do that, but you have to nod.
John: Your homework’s to fall asleep when John McDougall’s talking.
Henry: The audience now needs to wake up. No, no. Let them talk. You just listen as much as you can. Listen as much as you can, and don’t want to interrupt, because you will want to interrupt. That’s the way their brains are working, too. They’re going to want to interrupt.
The communication has to be felt. And if you develop that in an interpersonal relationship, one on one, and then restate what they’re saying, it will help you in your public speaking immensely. It sounds like it won’t. Believe me, it will.
John: Those are great tips, Henry, excellent. Where can people get in contact with you?
Henry: They can see me on LinkedIn, at Henry Zacchini.
John: How do you spell your last name?
Henry: It’s spelled, unlike the squash, it’s just like that, but with an A instead of a U. Z‑A‑C‑C‑H‑I‑N‑I. It’s easy to remember, because it’s like the squash. Henry Zacchini.
John: Absolutely. Connect with Henry on LinkedIn. Check out authoritymarketing.com for more interviews and information on Authority Marketing. I’m John McDougall. See you next time on the Authority Marketing Roadmap.