Public Speaking Success: Four Ways to Keep Your Audience Interested

It’s no secret that most people feel some sort of discomfort when it comes to public speaking and one of the root causes of that discomfort is the fear of boring the audience. It’s every presenter’s nightmare to give a speech that causes snoring and glazed eyes.

So how do you keep your audience awake? The key, obviously, is to not do anything that might make them disinterested in your talk. Keep in mind that sometimes an audience is tired because of things beyond your control. These reasons can include the timing of your presentation (either too early or too late in the day), the physical environment of the room or the audience consuming too much food and/or alcohol before your talk.

None of these situations would guarantee a sleepy audience, but it does make your job as a speaker a bit more challenging. The good thing is that the techniques we’ll cover can help in these types of situations as well as speaker inflicted boredom.

Tell stories:

People like stories – they’re much more interesting than listening to facts or information. Stories can serve a number purposes ranging from breaking the ice with the audience by using some humor or by clearly illustrating a point. Many business books have been disguising themselves as stories in recent years so people can see the advice in the context of a real life situation.

It’s better to find stories that relate to your point rather than trying to change your presentation so the story will fit in. Just don’t go overboard by getting into too much detail with your story or going off on tangents. Stay focused and to the point.

Get the audience involved:

As a speaker, there’s no better feeling than having your audience engaged. So don’t let them sit there quietly – get them moving! Invite them to ask questions, have them do an exercise or ask them questions. Getting your audience involved keeps them awake and interested.

Many speakers use this as a way to appease their ego by having the audience clap for them or laugh extra loud at their jokes. Avoid doing this because your speech is about your audience, not you.

Vary your voice and body language:

The people who are guaranteed to put an audience to sleep are people who speak in a monotonous manner. Most of us get tired listening to a talk when the speaker doesn’t change his or her tone throughout the talk but you don’t want to go the other extreme to where your tone is borderline obnoxious. Doing so virtually ensures the audience won’t take you seriously. Instead, try to find some middle ground where you can vary your pitch, pace and tone.

Many folks feel most comfortable staying in one place during their talk, which is okay (even though it’s not ideal). If you must stay still, use your arms and hands to gesture to add an extra visual element to your talk. Again, don’t overdo it – use gestures that are natural, not forced, and avoid predictable movements.

Use examples your audience can relate to:

If you’re telling a story or using an analogy, make sure it’s something tailored to your audience. If you’re speaking to an audience of sales people and making a point using accountants as an example, your audience may not follow you.

So as you’re preparing for your talk, think of ways to relate your points to something of interest to your audience. I also go the extra mile and tailor my entire presentation to the needs of my audience. So when I talk to small business owners about public speaking, I talk about the opportunities available to them and how they can reach the most potential clients with their messages. On the other hand, when a company brings me in to do training for them, I factor that company’s goals and industry into my presentation so that the audience can relate. So if I’m talking to a software company, I focus on topics such as communicating in layman’s terms and giving a technical presentation.

If I just did a generic talk that covers a wide variety of topics, the small business folks would tune out the parts on technical talks and the software folks wouldn’t care about finding speaking opportunities. You may find that the demographics, geography, interests or other commonalities among your audience may make certain parts of your speech unsuitable for that particular presentation while other parts might be of greater interest. Keep this in mind when preparing your talk so you can focus on the points of most interest to your audience.

It probably is no surprise to you that a little prep work up front can help you out when it’s time to give your presentation. Take the time to research your audience and its needs and interests so you can give them a presentation that can help them. Then you can finally put your fear of putting the audience to sleep to rest.

Share

5 thoughts on “Public Speaking Success: Four Ways to Keep Your Audience Interested

  1. David Portney, Public Speaking Training Wizard

    I don’t mean to sound flip or to make an understatement, but speaking about something people want to hear about is one way to keep people interested. That said, I have seen speakers take an exciting topic and dull it down to snooze-time with their boring delivery style.

    Best,
    David Portney

  2. James Post author

    David,

    Agreed – a boring delivery style can kill even the most well-written speech. You definitely need both the delivery and the content.

    You actually got me thinking about some ideas for a future series of posts about delivery styles so thanks.

    James

  3. Pingback: Public Speaking Success: Four Ways to Keep Your Audience Interested « Gilbert Toastmasters

  4. Pingback: It’s the Audience, Stupid | Overnight Sensation - Public Speaking, Communication and Personal Development

  5. Pingback: Public Speaking Success: A Lesson From the Yale Class of 1953 | Overnight Sensation - Public Speaking, Communication and Personal Development

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: