The Secrets of “Watchability” for Speakers
“Watchability.” Both my spell checker and an online dictionary
tell me that “watchability” is not a real word. However, I will
continue to use it because, in my opinion, the ability to be
watchable may be the single most important trait a speaker can
This summer, I attended the annual convention of the National
Speakers Association. I thought that the kickoff speaker was
amazing. However, if you break down his style in purely technical
terms, he was awful. He kept moving around the stage, he stepped
out of the light and into the audience, he checked his watch
while speaking, etc. Despite all that, he had watchability.
Something about his delivery and style kept me grossly engaged.
Others must have thought so as well – you don’t get to open a
national speakers convention if people think you’re no good.
So what is watchability? It is, to be a bit redundant, the
characteristic of being watchable. People enjoy watching and
listening to you speak. The amazing thing is that if you are
watchable, then even if you mess up or if your content or
delivery isn’t up to snuff, the audience will enjoy it.
The ultimate goal, of course, is to have great content and
delivery while being amazingly watchable. The challenge is that
while content and delivery are easily viewable traits,
watchability is abstract. It’s easy to watch a speaker and
critique how they move, or how they use their facials. You can
listen and critique stutters, inflection, pace, and vocal
variety. The value of their content is easy to immediately judge.
Watchability, however, is like charisma. You can’t define a set
criteria, but you know it when you see it.
I have however, observed a few things that all eminently
watchable speakers do:
1) They are themselves. These speakers speak from the heart, and
speak in a style that is true to themselves. They don’t use other
people’s words, and they don’t use unnatural body movements that
a coach taught them. They give you the impression that if the two
of you were hanging out for dinner, they would say the same thing
in the same way.
2) They are comfortable. Watchable speakers look right at home on
stage. This comes from two things: 1) they are experienced and
know the material inside and out, and 2) they are not afraid of
failure. While they want to communicate their message and please
they audience, they are not wrapped up in all that. They are
content to just get on stage and do their best. If the audience
likes it great; if not, it’s not the end of the world.
3) They are having fun. You have probably seen a speaker (even a
“professional”) who looks like they don’t want to be on stage.
Watchable speakers have fun. Even if their topic is serious, they
clearly act as if they want to be on that stage. They view it as
an honor and a privilege. Whether it stems from fear, arrogance,
burn-out, or some mysterious other factor, when a speaker would
rather be somewhere else, an audience can feel it.
Practice implementing these three ideas: be yourself, get
comfortable, and have fun. You can instantly and drastically
increase the value of your speech without changing a single word
if you do this. You will, in word, become “watchable.”