The word that should be in every speech

Do you want to keep your audience interested in what you’re saying? Quit talking about yourself and use “you.”

Don’t you hate it when a speaker gets up and waxes poetically about himself for the first five minutes of a presentation? It’s all me, me, me.

And you’re yawn, yawn, yawning.

Why do you fall into a stupor of boredom when a speaker focuses on himself?

“You” is missing. “You” is the most important word in any presentation.

Minimize “I” and maximize “you”

As a speaker, you are the conduit of information that will inform, persuade, inspire or entertain your audience. When the focus is on the “I”—this how I work with my clients, I do this, or I do that—you make yourself the most important person in the room. Maximize “you” and minimize “I.”

This goes for blogs, too. Do you click away from articles because they say “I” more than “you” in the first paragraph?

I do. I don’t care about the “I.” I care about seeing myself in your content.

Speak to one person

When you focus on the “you,” you focus on the audience. Whether you are speaking to five people or 505, they are the most important people in the room.

The brilliant Craig Valentine often says that in public speaking you should speak to one to capture the minds of many.

He has “the hallway test”: Imagine walking past a friend in a hallway and saying, “How many of you have been to Bora Bora?” Your friend would look at you like you lost your mind. You’d never say that to one person. You’d say, “Have you been to Bora Bora?”

If you can’t say something in your presentation to just one person, chuck, revise or rewrite it. The focus needs to be on the “you” in your audience.

“You” increases engagement

Using “you” increases the audience’s engagement in your speech. I’m currently working on a speech to encourage people to embrace emotions when they grieve. (That sounds happy, doesn’t it?)

Let’s look at two ways I could phrase a line from my speech:

Everyone has difficult times during his or her life.

Have you ever hit a rough patch in your life?

Which made you think more? The second one, right? It immediately makes you think of a time that was hard for you; it puts you into the speech. Even though I am going to talk about a personal story, you can relate it to your life.

Always invite your audience into your speech. Ask them questions. Make them feel like you are talking only to them. Let them experience your story through their own lives. Increased engagement leads to more successful presentations and happier audiences.

Dr. Michelle Mazur is a public speaking coach and communication expert. She blogs at Relationally Speaking, where a version of this article originally appeared.

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