Tips to Engage Your Audience



Whether motivational and keynote speaking, leading a workshop or board meeting, there is a certain amount of public speaking that we all need to do at some point in our lives. Commanding the room and being a presence in it is key to your words having an impact on the listener. Here are some tips for getting your audience engaged:

The speech is for them, not for you.
Keep in mind that the facts that drive you might not drive others. Some anecdotes are universal, some are personal and hard for others to relate to. Make sure that you test your material out on at least one person you trust for honest feedback to see how they respond.

Avoid information overload.
Don’t dump statistics on your listeners. Don’t use slideshow presentations if you can avoid it, and if you need some visual aids, make sure you don’t have more than one slide per three minutes of speech. You won’t get your listeners to buy in to your words with data, you’ll get them to buy in with your excitement, with your passion. Use the data to back up your feelings, not replace them.

Keep it short.
TED talks are 18 minutes for a reason. The average attention span for a listener is about 22 minutes. Time your talk at home, make sure that you keep that time limit in mind. If you go over 20 minutes, you can probably cut some non-essentials. The more effective you can make your point, and the quicker you can finish your thought, the more engaged your audience will be.

Don’t start with a joke.
Finding humor in the subject matter or in the audience is fine, but you should not write jokes into the presentation. There is a limited scope to humor that may make you feel hackneyed, and in humor the possibility to offend is almost always present. Keep your conversational style light, but steer away from a joke.

Do not question?
Ending every sentence with a rising tone, as if asking a question, is a common trait in modern speech. It is asking for affirmation. It is asking for acceptance. If it is a declarative sentence, declare it. Ending every thought with a verbal question mark undermines your authority.

Do not market.
Avoid marketing buzzwords, and self promotion. Do not talk about your accomplishments. Keep in mind who the speech is for. Even if you are there to sell investors on your company or are leading a workshop on a product you sell, speak with passion and emphasis, but do not give your audience the hard sell. That comes later, after you’ve hooked them.