Public speaking lessons from Oprah
Here, we take a look at Oprah Winfrey’s techniques and break down a series of tips and tactics straight out of the Oprah communications manual.
The American TV host — and, who knows, possible future United States President! — is one of the most influential people in the world, and her communication style has earned her the love of millions worldwide.
Oprah routinely shares great advice on becoming a great executive communicator.
So let’s see what she can teach us about effective communication.
1. It’s a conversation
Oprah never lectures.
Instead, she converses with her audience. If you listen to Oprah’s show, you feel as though you are talking to her one-on-one.
When presenting, this is the feeling you want to give your audience—to make each audience member feel as though you are talking to him or her individually.
When creating your speeches and presentations, forget the big fancy words and the complicated terminology.
Read over the script and make sure it sounds conversational.
Ask yourself simply: Is this how I would talk to a friend?
After all, a speech/presentation is simply a conversation you are having with many people.
2. Open with a big promise
Oprah always opens her show with a Big Promise.
She provides her audience members with a roadmap (an outline) of all the exciting things that will happen during the show.
Here’s just one example:
Today on Oprah, Dr. Phil will show you five easy steps to reigniting the romance in your relationships.
After that, Suze Orman will show you how to eliminate all your credit card debt.
Putting the heat on romance and getting debt free??? Now there’s a big promise to start any performance. And every talk or presentation or speech you deliver, whether from a conference stage to 1000 delegates, or to your team in a cramped meeting room, is a performance.
If it’s applicable in your scenario, always provide your audience with a quick outline of the value they are going to get out of your speech.
3. Share personal stories
Oprah shares plenty of personal stories about her successes and struggles.
These personal stories create rapport with the audience.
Personal stories are interesting to listen to, and they’re also memorable.
When creating your speeches and presentation, reach into your reserves and try to find the personal stories you can use to back up your core message.
They add credibility to your message and make your speech interesting.
The outcome of getting personal is that you will subtly demonstrate to your audience that you’re just like them.
No matter what our station in life, all of us want that reassurance.
By sharing personal stories, Oprah shows her viewers she was just like them.
Even though she’s a billionaire, her authentic personal stories about her struggle with weight-loss made her seem like “one of us”.
It gave her massive credibility, which in turn gave her the ability to connect on a deep emotional level with her viewers.
If you want to inspire people with your message, if you want your audience to connect with you, you need to make them feel that you’re just like them.
Share your successes, by all means.
But make sure you don’t forget to also share your struggles.
4. Show them you care about them
Once you’ve established that you are just like your audience, the next step is to prove to them that you really care.
That you care about their problems, struggles and challenges.
Oprah made her viewers feel that she cared about them.
She did this by empathizing with their struggles and letting them know that she was facing those very same struggles.
When giving your speech, let your audience know that you care about them, then tell them why.
Have you faced a similar situation in the past?
If so, let them know!
And don’t sugarcoat it. If you can remember what it was like, dive into those memories. That will build rapport and relationships.
5. Stand for something bigger than yourself
Your speech can’t be all about you. It has to stand for something bigger than yourself.
Oprah’s show stood for:
“Live Your Best Life”.
What do you stand for?
Do you have a purpose that drives you forward?
What value will your speech provide your audience?
It really pays to think about these questions before any speech, talk or presentation—and the truth is this applies equally to personal and business communications.
6. Make it emotional
Oprah’s stories of struggles and successes were full of emotion.
Why is it important to invest your communications with emotion?
Because emotion is the fuel that drives action.
If you want your audience to take action, then you need to use emotional stories that will touch them and inspire them.
7. End with enthusiasm
End on a high note.
Make sure that when your audience leaves the room, they leave feeling excited and hopeful.
Craft the ending of your speech or presentation so that your audience leaves feeling hopeful about the future.
No matter whether your company is aiming for $100 million revenue, you’re aiming to build a successful team and culture, or you’re trying to help colleagues with a healthier work-life balance.
Whatever your goals, ending your presentation on a high note will carry you and your team or audience forward towards that future.
Fail to do this, and all the wind might be out of the sails before you even leave the room.
Here’s one of Oprah’s best performances, her Golden Globes Speech in 2018.