!http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07fc0de3970d-320wi|src=http://nfpa.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07fc0de3970d-320wi|alt=CD player|style=margin: 0px 0px 5px 5px;|title=CD player|class=asset asset-image at-xid-6a00d8351b9f3453ef01bb07fc0de3970d img-responsive!For this blog post, we're going back to a time when boy bands ruled the radio and the Macarena was the quickest way to get the masses to the dance floor. Dust off those CDs and envelope yourself in flannel, because you're about to take a one-way trip to the 1990s!
You're probably wondering what pop music from this decade has to do with advocating for home fire sprinklers. Quite a lot, actually. Many of us sprinkler advocates have to give presentations at code council hearings, town meetings, and public events explaining why home fire sprinklers are lifesavers. (No, not the candy.) Public speaking doesn't come easy for some of us, which is why we're turning to some of the 90s best pop songs for some guidance on how to effectively get your point across to an audience.
Without further ado, here are some tips from Brad Phillips, Mr. Media Training and NFPA blog contributor. (The list originally appeared on his blog. ) Enjoy!
Backstreet Boys, "I Want it That Way"
Boy bands use the word “you” more than any other word. Perhaps the boys of ‘N Sync, 98 Degrees, and Hanson were onto something. By using the pronoun “you,” they directed their message straight into the hearts of their mostly younger, female fans. The word “you” has that power, and great speakers use it often to deliver their personal-sounding messages to each individual audience member. As an example, this Backstreet Boys classic uses the word “you” or “your” no fewer than 20 times—and “you” is the first word in the song.
Guns N’ Roses, “November Rain”
As a general rule, it’s better to speak for too short than too long. But if a great movie can hold your attention for two-and-a-half hours, shouldn’t a great speaker be able to hold your attention for longer than the typical 50-minute conference breakout session? Guns N’ Roses pushed back against the typical constraints of pop radio, which restricts most songs to about four minutes. In 1992, their nine-minute hit “November Rain” made it to number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart, becoming the “longest song in history to enter the top ten of that chart,” according to Wikipedia—and proving that longer can be better if the song—or speech—is good enough.
Spice Girls, “Wannabe”
The Spice Girls offer a formula for a successful call to action: “I’ll tell you what I want, what I really really want.” If your audience doesn’t understand the next steps they’re supposed to take after hearing you speak, they won’t take any. Some research suggests that asking for a small and easily accomplished call to action is a good way to begin, since a small action often leads to bigger future actions.
<br />Extreme, “More Than Words”
In their gorgeous ballad, Extreme pointed out that there is a difference between verbal communication and body language: “More than words / is all you have to do to make it real / then you wouldn’t have to say that you love me / ‘cause I’d already know.” As Extreme pointed out, words are only one way to deliver a message—and they’re often not enough on their own. To be truly effective, words need to be fully connected to the body language associated with them. In some cases, that means that your tone is as important—or even more important—than the words you choose. And great speakers have the ability to use their faces and bodies to communicate certain key points without any words at all.
Despite your positive visualization, there’s still a chance you might bomb your presentation. That’s where this song comes in: “I get knocked down / But I get up again / You’re never gonna keep me down.” With its pick-yourself-up-and-try-again lyrics, it’s a good reminder that most of us are going to deliver a dud once in a while. But your next audience won’t know that you didn’t succeed with your last audience, so it’s important not to bring that imperfect history into your new talk. Every presentation offers an opportunity to succeed anew—if you don’t self-sabotage it with your negative self-talk.
Media professional Brad Phillips has worked closely with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors to help its advocates spread messages on burn injury and prevention, including the importance of home fire sprinklers. He is the author of The Media Training Bible and the Mr. Media Training Blog.