Let’s face it, speeches are a lot more fun to watch when the speaker is energized and engaging. Plus you also pay closer attention and learn more too. Chances are that if you’ve ever fallen asleep during a presentation, the presenter’s style had more to do with it than the content of the presentation. I’ve seen presenters take a dry topic such as software testing and make it entertaining. I’ve also seen presenters take an exciting topic like getting rich and bore the audience to sleep. And yes, I’ve been guilty of giving a less than enthusiastic talk and could feel the drain of energy in the room.
So how can you take your speech and make it more fun and interesting for the audience? Well, first you don’t want to overdo it. A lot of speakers, especially those whose speaking experience is primarily at Toastmasters clubs, tend to overdo it. They overuse gestures and body language, do goofy things to get the audience’s attention like shout or make them do silly exercises or they throw excess humor into their talks. The good news is that you don’t have to go through all that bother. Simply be excited about your talk and do what comes natural. Here are the three areas to focus on.
You need to be excited and enthusiastic about your topic to bring out the best in your talk. If you’re a motivational speaker, then perhaps the thought of helping someone live a better life excites you. If you’re speaking on a business topic, maybe you believe that the product or method you’re discussing will really make things easier for your clients. If you’re not excited about the topic as a whole, perhaps there’s some aspect about it that does excite you. If your topic is about a car, maybe there’s a new safety feature that you feel will save lives. If you’re talking about mobile devices, maybe there’s an app that you find particularly useful. If you’re helping people lose weight, maybe there’s a story that inspires you. Whatever it is, figure out what excites you about the topic and use it to fuel your presentation.
If you’ve ever written a speech that you were proud of, chances are your delivery showed it. Just like when you submit an article for review (or thinking way back, a homework assignment that you were excited to submit), it feels good to present something you’ve worked hard on. The same is true with your talk, if you’ve taken the time to prepare and practice, you’ll be excited about presenting it.
There are things you can do to make your talk more exciting such as:
- Varying the pace and volume of your voice to convey excitement.
- Move and gesture to show you’re passionate about your talk.
- Add props that help drive the message home.
- Get the audience to participate by asking or answering questions, repeating things back to you or working alone, in groups or as a whole on exercises.
Again, the key here is to not overdo it. Do only what comes natural when it comes to your presentation style and only add props and audience interaction if it fits into your presentation. Never to try to force anything into your presentation because you think it’ll be fun to do, only add it if it fits in with the flow.
There’s nothing more invigorating to a speaker than having a hot audience — an audience that is really into your presentation. You might think that it’s difficult to develop rapport with an audience but’s really not much different than developing rapport with one person. Remember to think of the audience as a single entity and just do what you’d do to get an individual person excited about what you’re talking about. When you start out excited, the audience gets excited. Even if you have a rough start (and yes, it happens to the best of us), you can still use excitement to start winning back your audience. Feed off of the positive energy in the room. If there isn’t any positive energy, start it. Be light a match and light a fire of positive energy and before you know it, it’ll start to catch and the whole room will light up.
When used correctly, excitement and enthusiasm can make a good speech great. And sometimes it can even help someone pull off a talk with weak content. The key here is excitement. Be excited about your topic, the work you put into your presentation and the fact that you’re able to share it with your audience, and you’ll notice that your presentations will get better and better.
James Feudo owns the Boston Web Design Agency JVF Solutions and loves blogging about personal development and communication in his spare time.