Public speaking is all about effective communication, whether this is on an auditorium stage, in a small room or a huge arena. Gaining then holding the favorable attention of your listeners are the keys here.
Once you’ve worked out what you want to say, conquered your fear of speaking in public, and brushed up your skills to actually present your ideas, the all-important next step is to captivate your audience.
Here are five ways to captivate your listeners:
1 – Instantly gain your audience’s favorable interest by using an attention-grabbing opener. This can be a question, statement or a personal anecdote that is in context. Select something that would appeal to, and not embarrass,
your listeners. Find out something about your audience that they may not expect you to know or acknowledge. So, if it is at a convention then ask questions of your convener, beforehand, as to what’s the current convention theme, or “buzz”, then refer to it. Do not try jokes or allude to rumor as this will surely offend somebody. Remember you are to gain the favorable attention of your listeners, not unfavorable.
2 – Acknowledge your audience. Let them know that you appreciate that they have given up their precious time to listen to your presentation. Even acknowledge a couple of those your know by name in a friendly, warm fashion. Many speakers hide behind reams of notes and powerpoint slides to try to block out the people present in the room so as to control their fear of public speaking. You have to remember that you actually need to communicate with your audience, not just tell them. You’ll win over your listeners if you acknowledge them and by interacting with them by asking or answering questions. One technique here is to ask “who has the first question?” – then wait! … and to close off by asking “who has the final question?” Even just by making eye contact with a few people can make a big difference in being accepted by your listeners. This will do wonders for your self-confidence.
3 – On notes and visual aids, most people prefer to have some notes handy for public speaking events, and you may prefer to use slides, Powerpoint, videos or other visual aids. Notes should be no more than headings, in big print for easy and quick visual reference to the main sign-posts of your message. You should know your subject well enough so that you can talk about it – and not read out a written speech verbatim. Don’t look at your slides when you speak – look at your listeners. Move around the room or even take a few steps forward on the podium to emphasize a point. Visual aids can be very useful, but be careful not to let these take over or you may be in danger of losing your personal connection with your listeners.
4 – Be yourself at a public speaking event. You’ll gain a lot more respect from the people you’re addressing. Let your personality come across. Unless you think you have potential as an Oscar winner, don’t try to act. Even Oscar winners are accepted more kindly when they speak spontaneously from the heart rather than from sweaty lengthy notes. Although public speaking is a performance to some extent, it’s your personality rather than your material that will make it interesting. If your material is of a technical nature then prepare handouts so that your listeners can read your message is more depth at a later time. Motivate them to read your notes later by piquing their interest with one or two more important points during your presentation. You are really selling yourself, rather than your material, to your listeners.
5 – In summary, remember to leave a lasting favorable impression on your audience by closing with an interesting or unusual fact or a final challenge for them to ponder over. The challenge can be a call to action and should flow logically from the main body of your speech. Keep in mind that public speaking is not only about getting your point across, the impact you make really depends on people remembering you favorably.
People buy you first, then your message!