There are no boring subjects. There are only boring speakers.
It doesn’t matter what your content or topic is, when presented well, it can be interesting and educational and make an emotional connection to the audience.
There are some who claim that public speaking is merely knowing your subject.
They take the attitude that having something to say is all that is necessary. That is not at all true.
You, perhaps, have listened to many speakers who knew their subjects thoroughly, but who, when they attempted to speak, actually bored their audiences. Merely knowing your subject is as far from public speaking as knowing the words of a song is from singing. Knowledge of your subject is vitally essential, yet that alone does not give you the ability to speak interestingly and hold your audience.
A few years ago, I was speaking at a conference for the construction industry.
After my keynote speech, I was delivering a breakout session where I was coaching the participants on their presentations. I made that statement: “There are no boring subjects, only boring speakers.” A gentleman in the third row put his hand up and said, ‘Ms. Fripp, my subject’s boring.’
Well, I will admit that there could be exceptions, however, you know me, I was going to go down fighting for my opinion. I asked him, “What is your subject?”
He said, ‘I teach OSHA rules and regulations for six hours.’
I brought him to the front of the room and said, “Tell me one rule.”
‘You have to wear your safety goggles.’
I asked him, “Please tell me about a time when one person did not wear his safety goggles. Then let’s look at it from the point of view of his wife.”
This was my suggestion on how he could open his presentation in a way to engage his audience.
“Imagine yourself as a 22-year-old wife and mother of two. One morning you kissed your 24-year-old husband, the sole support of your family, goodbye as he went to work on the construction site on the corner of 39th and Main, next to the Kroger store. His job was to drill through concrete to put in a new pipe. Just as he was doing that, a big chunk of concrete flew out and hit him in the eye. He was not wearing his safety goggles. They took him to the hospital and finally brought him home a few days later. You nursed him back to health, but now he has only one good eye. How do you feel when he goes back to work to do the same job, at the same construction site, and you’re fairly confident that once again he’s not going to wear his safety goggles?”
My suggestion was after he had his audience’s attention to transition into the body of his presentation.
‘Welcome to OSHA. For the next 5 ½ hours, we will look at 136 rules and regulations. You know them. You’ve heard them. However, this is to reinforce the importance of staying vigilant and making sure that your crews are aware of and follow all recommended guidelines.’
What you might want to do to spice up a potentially boring subject is to find stories about some of the rules and regulations. Stories can make even the most indisputably dull topic come alive. Find the stories; present them well. You will make an emotional connection, and the audience will remember the stories.
Remember, stories are the currency of human contact.
If you need help, why not open your Amazon account and order my new book Deliver Unforgettable Presentations written with Darren LaCroix and Mark Brown. Shep Hyken, Hall of Fame Speaker and best-selling author, is practicing some of the Fripp opening lines.