Let the New Normal Commence
Typically, all around the country, the world, this is a time of celebration. The leaders of tomorrow are embarking on their next steps to success, diplomas in hand, proudly wearing the caps and gowns it took them so many years to earn. Yet, as we all know, the way we communicate, and the way we celebrate, has changed. It’s important to remember, though, that those who lead don’t look upon change with fear. Instead, they approach it with excitement.
It wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to guess that some of our clients might be asked to give commencement speeches, welcoming graduates into a world rife with possibility and opportunity. Even more so, we know that our clients, on a daily basis, are responsible for delivering messages built on a solid foundation of personal connection, motivation, and, of course, calls to action. No matter if you’re giving a speech to a sea of virtual graduates or to a crowd of eager employees, remember these key tips that’ll help you craft speeches that resonate and inspire.
- Message structure must feel organic, but still requires preparation and outlining. Whether you’re in the virtual boardroom or delivering an address to graduating seniors, consider kicking things off with a personal story. The optimal word here is story, not anecdote. A story can be motivational, an anecdote, by definition, is something minor. Don’t fear sharing, as long as you round things out with a call to action. Remember your ultimate objective.
- Explore the emotional spectrum. Often, public speakers, even those delivering commencement addresses, try too hard to only be inspirational. Inspiration can only be achieved by accessing other emotions first. Good commencement speeches are funny, moving, and motivating all at once.
- Bypass the cliché. We’ve all heard definitions from Webster’s Dictionary, phrases in Latin, and quotes piggybacking on the greatness of other speakers. This isn’t to say citing outside information is always ill-advised, but authenticity can be a more engaging avenue. If you do want to quote someone else, connect that quote to your audience and your own personal history.
Be Effective Virtually Anywhere
This year, celebrities and cultural leaders like Oprah, Barack Obama, and Tom Hanks are delivering virtual commencement speeches to the first graduating classes entering the new normal. Undoubtedly, it’s a challenging time to be graduating. And, similarly, it’s a tall task to ask speakers to connect emotionally with students hundreds or thousands of miles away. How can these speakers still stir graduates into action? The Dardis team gathered a few pointers from their virtual speech experience:
- Appearances still matter. Carefully curate your background, your chosen camera angle, and your attire. Try facing your brightest source of light. For most, this will be natural light coming from your window. And don’t forget to keep your laptop or device raised so the camera angle is at eye-level. Use a stack of books if you need to, but avoid unflattering angles.
- Eye contact can be powerful. Obviously, during virtual meetings, or a virtual commencement speech, actual eye contact is, unfortunately, impossible. But, if you look straight into your webcam, your audience will have the impression you’re looking at them directly. Maintaining eye contact like this helps bridge the gap between physical and virtual communication, allowing us to connect with our audience even if we aren’t in the same room.
- Breathe and speak slowly. This might be one of the oldest rules in the communication handbook, but there’s a reason it remains such sound advice. Virtual communication, for many of us, is new. New can make us nervous. When we get nervous, our speech patterns quicken, making our words hard to understand. Being nervous is perfectly fine. But just remember to breathe and give each sentence space to do the same.