Author: Jennifer Watson
If you want to see a great example of public speaking, skip the upcoming Oscars broadcast and head to the movies for a lesson from George Clooney.
About 20 minutes into his Oscar-nominated flick “Up in the Air,” Clooney’s character faces an audience and puts a backpack on a table. “I want you to imagine that you’re wearing this backpack,” he tells them. “Feel the weight of its straps on your shoulders. Imagine walking through an airport with it.”
The camera pans to the audience, and we watch his listeners imagine the scene he’s setting. They’re thinking. They’re personalizing the points he’s making. They’re engaged.
His character gives his talk—titled “What’s In Your Backpack?”—several times during the film. And whatever the value of his go-it-alone message, he constructs and delivers it effectively.
How can you present like George Clooney? Here are a few tips from the film:
1. Step away from the Power Point. You’ll survive without it. Really. Use props or other images to engage your audience instead. Power Point can be a great tool—but not all the time.
2. Include sensory information. Clooney asks his audience to feel the weight of the backpack and imagine a setting. Too often, speakers address the intellect but leave the other senses alone. Don’t make that mistake. Sprinkle your stories with sensory details to engage the imagination and memory.
3. Speak like a real person. Clooney doesn’t use industry lingo or graduate-school vocabulary. He talks like an intelligent but down-to-earth person. No dictionaries or decoder rings are required to enjoy his speech.
4. Focus on your audience. Free from the electronic gadgets needed to run most presentations, Clooney can focus on his audience. He can look at his listeners and engage as they react to his comments. He knows his speech isn’t really about him. It’s about his audience and what they decide his message means to them.
5. Say what you believe, and believe what you say. Clooney’s character believes in his message. When he stops believing it, he stops giving his talk. The lesson for other speakers is this: Conviction energizes a speaker and commands attention from an audience.
Public speakers hone their skills over a lifetime—one speech or training session at a time. Whenever you hear an effective public speaker, stop to ask why that person was effective and how you could use similar techniques. Or, consider investing time in the communications, presentation or media training that MGA offers.