Last Friday I was pretty damn lucky. I got to hear Turia Pitt speak at an inspiring lunch with 300 other Illawarra Women In Business, and it’s definitely given me a new lease of life. She made me laugh, cry, the hairs on my arms stood to attention, and I wanted to listen to her all day. Here’s why…
If you’ve never heard of Turia Pitt (seriously, where have you been??) here’s a snap shot. Turia is a normal, regular girl who just happens to be crazy-fit, and after landing her dream job with Rio Tinto, she took part in a 100km ultra-marathon in September 2011 where she was trapped in a grass fire. The result was catastrophic – she suffered burns to 65% of her body and her life was turned upside down.
Now I could write this post about how amazing Turia is. Because she truly is. She has defied all the odds, dying 3 times on the operating table. But despite everything that she’s been through she’s currently training for Melbourne’s Iron Man competition, whilst speaking around the world inspiring thousands, studying for an MBA, and raising money for Interplast to send surgeons to developing countries to perform life- saving operations. It’s exhausting just typing that long list, let alone doing it!
But what I want to focus on today is why Turia’s such an amazing speaker. I run presentation skills training and let me tell you, public speaking doesn’t come naturally or easily to most. In fact, despite it’s career-building abilities, it’s something that most people dread, more than spiders and death itself (fact!).
Now of course, Turia’s got an amazing story to tell that captivates people from the beginning. But lets face it, there’s nothing worse than watching someone on stage scramble for their words, gulp down air and wish the ground would open up and swallow them – even if their story is inspirational. Turia is much more than a story of survival.
So what makes Turia so powerful listen to? If you want to be a great public speaker here are 5 tips to follow that Turia’s mastered exceptionally well: –
1. She’s Vulnerable
Turia comes across as the girl-next-door who we can all relate to. I wholeheartedly believe she was always destined for great things, she’s mentally and physically tough with smarts that will take her far. But when she speaks she holds no heirs and graces, she’s just down to earth and normal like the rest of us.
So why does that make her a great speaker? Because her audience can relate to her message and ultimately the purpose of her speech. If she can do it, I can do it – it’s that type of mentality that you want your audience to connect with and take away from your presentation. If you can get the audience to truly connect to the message you’re conveying that’s when you’ve done a great job, and Turia hits that nail on the head every time. Forget trying to remember all your lines, and being the most polished speaker out there – it will make you seem untouchable. Connect with your audience, show vulnerability, and they’ll be left wanting more.
2. She Has Fun On Stage
I want to be Turia’s best mate. Why? Because she’s got a great sense of humor and she’s not afraid to use it. Being able to convey humor and make your audience laugh is like gold in any presentation, and Turia’s natural style and ability to laugh at herself works wonders. She takes you on a journey that has you giggling one minute and reaching for the tissues the next, and that makes you love her even more along the way.
Presenting doesn’t have to be serious, even when your topic is. Add humor into the mix at appropriate intervals and watch your audience light up – it’s a nice release if your topic is dry, and it lifts a room when you’re talking about something that pulls at the heart strings.
3. She Doesn’t Care
…. about what you think about her. Lets face it, everyone in that room was looking at Turia, and with the significant scaring she’s got I defy anyone that’s heard her speak to say they weren’t looking and thinking about her physical appearance. Hell, we were there to hear her talk BECAUSE of what’s she’s been through and her scars are a direct impact of that. But Turia owns the stage when she speaks. She’s confident, she’s passionate about her message, and she has the ability to quickly take the audience on a journey where they’re hanging off her every word.
Ultimately, she’s so focused on the outcome of the presentation she gives it her all, and when you present from that head space you don’t care what other people are think of you, you’re in the ‘zone’ and ready to give your audience everything that’s required to get a great result. In the speaking world that’s called ‘up-time’ as opposed to ‘down-time’ when you’re inside your own head, worried about what people think, and focusing on yourself instead of your audience. It’s a significant shift in speaking style and Turia did a great job of being in ‘up-time’ consistently.
4. She Works The Stage
Turia was given a lectern to stand behind, but rarely did. Instead of hiding behind a lump of wood and separating herself from her audience, she moved around the stage freely and connected with the whole room – front to back, left to right. This is a sign of a confident presenter and is a great way to engage your audience. It’s much easier to hover behind a stand and read from your notes, but it’s less interesting for the people watching and listening to you – and when you’re presenting it’s ALL about how your audience feels, not how you feel!
5. She Doesn’t Like Words
….. on slides. Turia had PowerPoint slides to refer to but they were almost-all of images, no words, so her audience focused purely on what she had to say rather than reading slides and losing the emotion and rapport she was able to build during her speech. In fact, the only slide I remember having words was the one in this picture, which she actually got the audience to read out loud so the slide served as an important prompt.
We all know to avoid death-by-powerpoint but it can be hard when you’re nervous. However, just remember, the less words the better if you want to stay connected to your audience throughout your presentation.
I’ve seen a lot of big names present – Anthony Robbins, Richard Branson and Christopher Howard to name a few – people that make a fortune being paid to speak in public. And Turia’s up there with the best, so if you get the opportunity to go and see her, do it without hesitation. You’ll walk away inspired, motivated and with a new zest for life because as Turia said “If I can do it, you can too” – and when such an inspirational person is able to make you feel like you’re unstoppable the last thing you want to do is prove her wrong!
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