What makes great speakers truly great? Their ability to connect with people and tell compelling stories — these are the inspiring people with a purpose.
What makes great online speakers awesome? The determination to connect with hundreds of people, even when distance may be an obstacle.
Everything that Simon Alexander Ong does is built around inspiring people to see their world differently and igniting their imagination of what is truly possible so that they can lead purposeful lives, careers and businesses.
I had the pleasure to meet Simon and his wife Laurie a few years back, and our paths crossed multiple times.
What I truly love about Simon is his attitude and drive to distilling everyday insights into lessons and stories that can be easily understood and codifying key principles that have the greatest impact on our development.
“Until I started my new path, I had never really spent time reflecting on what it is I really wanted and an observation I noticed was that the most successful leaders around us had the clarity of purpose. And so I began to explore questions like What does fulfillment look like to me?, What sort of impact would I like to have in this world? and What would I regret not having tried when looking back to my younger self as an 80-year-old Simon?”
He is regularly invited as a speaker to share his wisdom with those who are ready to transform their lives and businesses. These have included events organized by the likes of Salesforce, O2 Business, Barclays UK, DocuSign, and Chelsea FC.
I thought there would be no better person to ask for some tips about gaining confidence when speaking online and being able to become a better speaker, even when your audience is thousands of miles away.
A matter of trust
“You can speak well if your tongue can deliver the message of your heart.” – John Ford
More often than not, the reason why some people manage to capture an audience’s attention is the work they put in every day to ensure people start getting a better understanding of who you are and what value you can bring into their lives.
Encourage your audience to get to know a bit about your background and see your existing work on social media, explains Ong:
“As an example, before an event I was to speak at, the audience would have the opportunity to see me in action through the videos, short interviews, articles, posts and media publications that I had been featured in. During the actual event, I would be illustrating my credibility through answering the question of ‘Why should I listen to you?’”
Why should I listen to you? This is a very powerful question that, once again, puts the audience at the forefront of the whole experience.
Whatever online talk, workshop, or speech you are going to deliver, you’ll always be doing it with a clear purpose in mind.
“This could be through sharing some personal stories about yourself that gave you the insight to be able to speak on this topic, the experience, and recognition you’ve built up through the work you’ve done, or simply the fact that you’ve accomplished what the audience is looking to accomplish.”
What is the clear outcome you want your audience to take away from your online performance? If you could summarise it into one sentence, what would it be?
Preparation and practice
A lot about confidence when speaking is in your preparation.
“When working with clients who have had to deliver a speech — from pitching to investors to a TEDx Talk and from an internal presentation to an industry keynote” shared Ong “a lot admitted to preparing too last minute and rushing through the compilation of their slide deck. It’s no wonder they are full of nerves and anxiety as they walk on stage!
Remember, it’s important to be connected with the topics of your speech, or even the audience you are going to meet, as that will reflect on your performance.
“Preparation begins by understanding what you would like your audience to walk away having learned at the end of your talk, the journey you would like to take them on, the stories you want to share, and the powerful questions and thoughts for them to reflect on. It is then about practice.” continues Ong
We can get overwhelmed when we think about speaking because what can come to mind is yourself being in a spotlight, exposed to a group of strangers, not able to and everyone quietly gazing at you through a small screen.
Can you break down your talk into sections, creating a journey for your audience? If so, what will this journey look like?
Get out of your comfort zone
“He who wants to persuade should put his trust not in the right argument, but in the right word. The power of sound has always been greater than the power of sense.” — Joseph Conrad
As a first building block for your speaking experience, Ong recommends the book Talk Like Ted by Carmine Gallo as “a great base to build your speaking skills”.
As with anything, it’s about starting small and building from there.
“The first-ever event I spoke at was filled with just a few people and it allowed me to practice eye contact, being comfortable on stage and engaging with them in a safe environment” he recalls. “Because of the small size, I was able to learn from their feedback as to what went well and what I could improve on. The more you perform on stage, the more comfortable you will get and you will begin to feel at home there.”
The future of connections and communication is now leaning towards interactive video and audio experiences. Being able to stand out from the crowd and captivate our audience is key.
What opportunities can you say yes to, in order to build your confidence and truly connect with your audience? Maybe you can start an Instagram Live series to start building confidence?