Want to be better at public speaking? Watch Apple’s onetime chief evangelist in action.
If you want to up your public speaking game, there are few better teachers than Guy Kawasaki. Kawasaki is former chief evangelist at Apple and current chief evangelist at Canva. He’s also an executive fellow at the Haas School of Business and sits on the board of trustees of the Wikimedia Foundation. He knows how to grab an audience’s attention and hang on. Take a look at his 2014 TEDx talk on innovation at UC Berkeley–you’ll not only learn a lot about innovation, you’ll learn a lot about presenting as well.
Here are some of Kawasaki’s smartest tactics.
1. Make a human connection with the audience.
This is a great thing to do if you’re famous, but it’s smart to do it even if you’re not. The speaker/audience paradigm automatically creates an invisible wall between you and the people you’re speaking to. Anything you can do to break down that wall will engage your audience and make them more interested in what you have to say.
So Kawasaki begins by admitting that he went to Berkeley rival Stanford–but at least he has a son at the University of California. Then he tells a self-deprecating joke in which he asks his wife whether in her wildest dreams she thought he’d be presenting to this audience. “Honey,” she answers, “you’re not in my wildest dreams.”
2. Say something the audience is secretly thinking.
If you can do this, it will capture your audience’s attention like nothing else can. Kawasaki does it in the first couple of minutes. “I’ve seen so many high-tech speakers, and most high-tech speakers suck,” he says. “So I figured out early in my career that if you use a top 10 format, the audience can track your progress through your speech so if they think you suck, they’ll know about how much longer you’ll suck.”
3. Use a list.
As you may have noticed, we at Inc.com are rather fond of the list format. There’s a reason for that, beyond what Kawasaki says about sucking. Lists make information easy to absorb, easy to share, and perhaps easier to remember. They alert the audience that they will be getting practical information in digestible chunks, not grand concepts.
4. Make it simple.
Most of Kawasaki’s innovation advice is masterful in its simplicity. Aim to make meaning, not money. Have a mantra, not a mission statement. It is, of course, deceptively difficult to come up with statements as powerfully simple as these. But if you can do it, you will engage your audience’s minds very quickly. And they may actually learn something.
5. Be irreverent.
There’s a line between irreverent and disrespectful. An American speaker in the U.K. mocking the queen is disrespectful. John Lennon’s request at a Royal Variety Performance in 1963 that the people in the cheaper seats clap their hands and the rest “just rattle your jewelry” was an exquisite piece of irreverence that’s been quoted for over 50 years. Stay on the right side of the line, and a little bit of irreverence will put the audience at ease and get them liking and listening to you.
One key to irreverence is to poke holes in sacred cows, especially ones you’ve been involved with. So when Kawasaki says he believes in God because that’s the only explanation for Apple’s continued survival, the TEDx audience laughs appreciatively. And he has them just a little more on his side.