As many of you know, I make a lot of presentations each year. I speak at conferences, luncheons, and deliver full- and half-day workshops. I earn part of my living as a speaker and presenter. Each year, I probably deliver 30 to 35 presentations. One of the toughest things I find is keeping the audience engaged. These are not the only ways (as there are lots of other professional speakers and speaking coaches out there who can help way better than I), but they are things that work for me. I call them the Six Steps to Speaking Success!
- A terrific speaking coach (Lauren Sergy from UpFront Communication) – once told me to make sure the message is focused. I used to put 10 or 15 focal points in a keynote presentation. As she noted, when I do that, I run long and most people “tune out” after three items. I think I am providing “more value” by giving my audience 10 “nuggets,” but when they cannot take it all in, it is a waste. Now when speaking, I try never to exceed three key deliverable points and expand on each of them.
- Animate your voice. Don’t talk in a monotone or the same tone all the way through. Get animated with your sound. Speak louder in some parts and more hushed in others. Use different voices, speed up, or slow down. This keeps the audience attuned to what you are saying.
- Use handouts, but be sure to reference them. I have a book, so at some keynotes where each participant receives a copy of Reality Check – Straight Talk about Sponsorship Marketing, I reference pages or passages for them to turn to, such as, “And on page 87, I talk about the importance of activation. Please turn to page 87 in your copy of Reality Check,” or if it is a handout, I reference it, “In the third bullet down on page two, you will see the most important question to ask in a discovery session.” By using the sense of touch, you keep your audience’s attention. They are listening and following through, so they are now retaining what you are saying. By engaging the sense of touch in a presentation, you have your audience more engaged.
- Don’t pack your slides with content. Whatever typing you have, make the font large enough to see at the back of the room. A great way to keep an engaged audience is to use video and pictures. Talk about the pictures. Let them watch the video. They will stay engaged. (If you have a ton of content that you want them to have and take away, build a separate deck with all that in it, provide handouts, and share the other deck before or afterward.)
- Engaging the senses is key to keeping an audience’s attention. We want them to hear and see (those are givens) and we saw how we can integrate touch through handouts. But how do we engage taste? Perhaps you hand out samples and let people taste a product. If you have a room full of round tables, perhaps the samples are at the centre of the table or they are handed out as you are speaking. Perhaps it is asking people to take a drink or just use imagination to get the taste buds salivating around the description of a sizzling BBQ dinner or crisp chardonnay. When you activate the taste buds, you maintain the attention of the audience.
- And finally, the most powerful sense—smell. Some great speakers have had smells pumped into the presentation room to get people thinking about a specific topic. Think about it—spas always have a “smell” to them. One spa my wife and I used to frequent on summer vacations had a strong eucalyptus aroma when you walked in the front door. When I saw a speaker from Lush Soaps presenting one time, she handed out bars of soap to a few folks to pass around. Those are highly-scented and fresh soaps and they touched people’s sense of smell. Figure out how you can engage an audience with the power of the sense of smell.
If you have suggestions to add, please feel free to do so. I can always use the additional ideas and tips, and a lot of TMC readers probably can too!
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