The most commonly mentioned “superpower” among the 80+ speakers I interviewed for Public Speaking Super Powers was the Power of Passion. Having a passion for your topic is important because when you have it, you are able to bring enthusiasm and energy to your presentation.
Alas, there are going to be times in your life, perhaps, when you are going to have to talk about something that you’re not all that enthused about. For example, if you’re a student in a speech class. Or if you’re in a job and part of your job is talking about topics that you’re not so interested in. Of course, you want these presentations to go well. If you’re a student, you want to get a good grade. And if you’re in a job, you want to get a promotion to where you can speak about what you do want to speak about.
Earlier this week, I gave a short talk at my Toastmasters club about five ways that you can find something of interest in your topic and infuse the Power of Passion into your presentation.
Technique 1: Finding the Mustard Seed of Interest
Find some aspect of the topic that is of interest to you. For example, back when I was in high school, I was taking history and we were studying the Westward Expansion. I thought it was so boring. There was nothing interesting about it to me at all. So when I went on to college, and I had to take a history class, I went out of my way to sign up for the class that would not cover the Westward Expansion. Well, I didn’t get my history right, because I signed up for the class that actually did cover the Westward Expansion.
But then something interesting happened. The teacher taught it in a way that was interesting. He taught it with stories of the people who were living the Westward Expansion. Well, I love learning about how people live their lives. So suddenly, this topic was of interest to me.
Technique 2: Talk with an Enthusiast
Find someone who is passionate about the topic and talk to them about it. More than likely, their enthusiasm will be contagious. In addition, you may get some ideas of how you can infuse that enthusiasm into your presentation. For example, if I was to do my own presentation on the Western Expansion, I would talk to this teacher and maybe, by osmosis, pick up some of his enthusiasm and bring that into my speech.
Technique 3: Think about Your Target Audience
What does your talk’s audience want to know about this topic? What will excite them about it? The thought here is that if you have your mind focused on serving your audience, rather than on whether you’re interested or not, you can bring some enthusiasm into what you’re talking about. When you’re enthusiastic about being of service, not necessarily the topic, you can infuse that secondary energy into your presentation.
Technique 4: Activate Your Inner Child
Find something about that topic that is playful, that speaks to the little five-year-old, or the seven-year-old, within you. Look for some angle to the topic that makes you just want to go, “Yay! It’s a rubber ball!” Then infuse that inner child energy into your speech.
Technique 5: Ask Questions
Take a piece of paper and write your topic across the top. Then, down the side of the paper, write Who, What, Why, Where, When, How. (Or you can download this Passion Activation Worksheet and print it out.) Then start writing out questions that fit those six. For example:
- Who would be interested in this topic?
- Who was involved in this topic?
- What is the main point of this topic?
- What does my audience want from this topic?
- Why would anyone want to know about this topic?
- Why did this topic become of interest to anyone?
- Where did this topic start?
- Where can this topic be found?
- When did this topic start?
- When do people experience this topic?
- How does this topic affect daily life?
- How and someone use this topic effectively?
For example, during my research for this post, someone using technique decided to use the topic of “coffee cups.” Well, if you ask “Why did the coffee cup get invented?”, you might find a story that’s really interesting that could get you excited about the topic.
If you list all these different types of questions about your topic, one of these questions will probably activate your interest and you can talk about the topic from that particular perspective.
Bonus Technique: Be Professional
There are going to be times when all these techniques might not work for you. For example, when a teacher says that you’re talking about this topic and you’re going to talk about it from this angle and that’s just the way it is. At that point, be a professional.
It is your job as a speaker to be up in the front of the room (or on the stage) and speak with enthusiasm. Talk with knowledge. Bring your sense of professionalism into your presentation. And, if you need to, fake it. Fake the enthusiasm.
The Power of Passion is the number one superpower that a speaker brings to his or her presentations. So find a way to find that interest, infuse it into your speech and give your audience a good performance.