When the Harry and Sally scene was over and my workshop partner Olivia Schofield was halfway lying on the floor – after her pretty realistic fake orgasm – and those 330 crazy Toastmasters burst into laughter, we knew this was going to be a special event.
And it was. Olivia and I want to say THANK YOU to all you open-minded workshop participants in Athens at the European conference of Toastmasters International on 26 May 2018.
“Sex and Public Speaking” – we knew we were going to touch a taboo topic. But – no one could have defended us better than our wonderful workshop coordinator Aleen: If there’s rebirth in Athens (the conference motto!), there must be sex in Athens.
We promised the room we were going to follow up on the group work results. One of the group work sessions looked for answers to one question: How can speakers create more pleasure for their audience?
We received an amazing 355 ideas!
Here are the top ten.
1. Eye contact (27 mentions, 7,6%)
Olivia and I always say: The eyes are the windows to the soul. Hence, no wonder that eye contact topped it all! 50% wish for longer, more intense eye contact. One comment suggested to “kiss them with your eyes”. And, a “seductive look”? Can it ever be wrong?
2. Vocal variety (26 mentions, 7,3%)
Some experienced speakers love to say, Content is overrated! Number 2: Your voice. Deep, strong, a whisper, a sexy voice, pauses, pauses, pauses, and even shouting and moaning can create more pleasure for the audience.
3. Interaction (22 mentions, 6,2%)
Calling someone by name, having 1-to-1 conversations, making compliments or even teasing and touching the audience – when you interact with them you connect with them. Speaker and audience become one, and our workshop participants love that!
4. Humor (21 mentions, 5,9%)
Has there ever been a speech that was too funny? Of course, the rat pack of humor was there: Self deprecation, saying the unexpected, and exaggeration. Given the setting, we also received suggestions to say nasty things and expressions with a double meaning.
5. Twists (20 mentions, 5,6%)
Dr. Wolfram Schultz, a University of Cambridge Professor of Neuroscience, has discovered that surprise actually intensifies emotion up to 400%. Twists come out of nowhere; they are surprising. Number five – no surprise.
6. Involvement (17 mentions, 4,8%)
Does passive pleasure exist? Our workshop participants definitely prefer active pleasure through active involvement. Getting audience members on stage, giving a massage to the neighbor or other touching, dancing, jumping, or other activities – your audience wants action!
7. Stories (16 mentions, 4,5%)
Number seven is no surprise either. 50% of the ideas favored personal stories. Stories about something lost or something embarrassing or something sad or, simply, a vacation. Again and again, the speaker’s (hero’s) journey is what works best for the audience.
8. Emotions (14 mentions, 3,9%)
Speak on your audience’s emotional level! Show emotions – happy or sad! Express your love! Audience pleasure loves your emotional transparency.
9. Questions (14 mentions, 3,9%)
Questions are a form of interaction, yes. But given the high number of responses, we reserve an extra spot for them. Specific ideas were: “Use a question to start a speech” or “Ask negative questions.” The latter is important, for example, when you are well aware that a majority of people in your audience knows something. Then, it is better to ask: Who of you has never heard of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs?
10. Smile (11 mentions, 3,1%)
How can your smile not be part of the top ten list? Paramahansa Yogananda, the Indian guru of Kriya Yoga, once put his wise thoughts into beautiful words: Let my soul smile through my heart and my heart smile through my eyes, that I may scatter rich smiles in sad hearts.
Other remarkable ideas were:
Create suspense (eg through not revealing your intention or dramatic pauses)
Talk to the five senses
Offer food and drinks (eg cookies and tea or pretzels on chairs)
Use props (eg objects that relate to the topic, but not to each other)
Play music (eg before the speech starts)
Give them a present
Act out dialogs
Share personal secrets
Share a strange, unusual hobby
Speak in different languages (eg quotes in original version)
Trigger their imagination
Alter the stage
Dare to do difficult things
Give goodbye kisses
Use a sexy title
Show more, tell less
Use x rated language
Welcome them at the door
And, finally, some freaky ideas:
Make them drunk
Put on red noses