Capture Your Audience
Being a good public speaker takes practice and presence to capture the attention of your audience.
How do you capture an audience? The following are some tips that will make your public speaking more effective – whether on stage, in a meeting, or even at home.
Tip 1: First give them the bucket into which they can put the information.
- If you tell them what you are trying to convince them of, they then can put context to your information. Without the bucket it could be just random information.
- Think of the mind as a filing cabinet – which drawer – which folder to put the information in – so that it can be retrieved later. The same is true if you are storing files in a computer.
- The bucket is the label.
- This is also the time to engage your audience and get them interested.
Tip 2: Speaking is not the same as writing – or lecturing in class
- Less is more when you speak – make a few points and
- Be sure to repeat them often
- Be careful not to be too dry, too “lecturee”, or they will fall asleep.
- When you are writing an article, or book your audience can go back and re-read what they have read before. When you are speaking to them publicly they have to capture what you are saying while you are saying it.
The most powerful way to connect with other people is through face-to-face interaction.
- Public speaking lets you share experiences, teach, motivate others, and sell yourself, your product, service or idea.
- Stage actors feel differently than actors performing only in front of a camera. There is feedback from the audience and an emotional connection that can only happen when people are there in front of you.
- So, connect with your audience, not with your notes, computer or power-point.
- As a matter of fact, when I teach, not only don’t I use my computer, but I don’t let my students use it either.
Tip 3: Be Real – Be AuthenticI once got my money back after watching a so-called famous public speaker do all sorts of phony and rehearsed gestures. He gestured in a rehearsed manner; he got down on one knee and seemingly beseeched his audience. I was turned off. True, there were some people in the audience that were enthralled with him, but I doubt any intelligent, sophisticated people were fooled.
- Nothing turns your audience off more than if they think you are being phony.
- You need to be relaxed, warm, and engaging – but in your own style
- Lady Gaga and Barbra Streisand are not the same
- Elvis Presley and Frank Sinatra were not the same
- A symphony orchestra is different from a jazz band.
- Be sure of your topic – do your research and your rehearsal, so that when you get up to speak, your audience feels comfortable that you are the expert and you are confident in what you are saying.
- Referring to your notes is OK – reading a lecture is boring, boring, boring.
Tip 4: Stories Sell
- Personalize it – give them stories that enable them to “SEE” what you are saying
- Anecdotes – vignettes – all help
- Great quotations from others are really good
- Know your audience before picking your stories – you want to be sure that what you tell them relates to who they are and what they want to learn.
Tip 5: Be humorous – but don’t tell jokes or use jargon.
- A slight amount of self-deprecating humor builds rapport – don’t overdo it
- If one or more of your stories is humorous, good.
- Unless you are a professional at joke-telling, you will probably not tell your joke well and might offend members of your audience. You are much better off not telling jokes.
“Feed the kitty” – I once shocked an audience because when teaching them about the importance of understanding other cultures, I told them the story about a group of design engineers who met often but couldn’t get one of their members to speak at those meetings.
This man was intelligent, creative, interesting and had good ideas when writing or in a one-on-one, but because of the social expectations of the culture in which he was raised, he could not speak in a manner that might disagree with others in a meeting. Instead of understanding his culture, they created a penalty for those who didn’t speak in meetings. They mandated that $1.00 be placed “in the kitty” for every 15 minutes of silence.
Members of my audience, from other countries, really thought I was saying to put money into a live kitten.
- Don’t use it unless you truly have visuals to offer (pictures/graphs)
- Less is more – don’t overdo it
- Never talk to your power-point – you will lose your audience.
How many times have you seen someone either read their power point from their computer, and/or actually turn their back on their audience to read from the screen itself?
The only exception – when you have an audience where most of the members do not speak the same language as you – and you are offering this as a way of them actually understanding your words. I once gave a speech to a group of Taiwanese Engineers. As I looked out at my audience, I realized that my language and theirs was so vastly different that I should have used a power point to make it easier for them to understand me.
- Don’t let your Power Point be your Crutch.
I remember being at a conference where a CEO was scheduled to speak. He had difficulties with his computer and wasted 15 minutes trying to get it to work. In the end, he adlibbed and was much more interesting than if he had used the power point prepared for him by his staff.
Tip 7: Image and Body Language Count
- Only Steve Jobs can get away with jeans
- Dress professionally – look at news & weather reports for ideas
- Be clean, neat, comfortable – and able to forget what you are wearing.
- Be your most professional self – not your most stiff and don’t wear something that you will later be embarrassed or uncomfortable about.
- Be fluid and flexible in your movements; be careful not to appear jerky. Stiff and awkward hand gestures – just because someone told you to use hand gestures don’t work. Again, that’s why it is so important to be relaxed and natural.
- This means lots of practice in situations that are less important to you – so that when you do have the opportunity to get before an audience, you are comfortable with public speaking.
- Don’t get in the way of your power point or slides if you are using them. You don’t want your audience to have to move to the side in order to see around you.
- Better to stand than to sit – unless the audience is small or you are injured.
I was speaking publicly shortly after having been in an automobile accident. I was using the podium as a crutch, leaning against it because I was in too much pain to stand freely. The speech was taped and was part of a series submitted to a Speaker’s Bureau. I was dinged because instead of being out in front with my audience, I was “hiding” behind the podium.
Never forget why you are there to speak
What were those tips?
- First give them a bucket into which they hear and save the information.
- Speaking is not the same as writing. When speaking less is more and you need to repeat your message in different ways.
- Be real – be yourself – but your relaxed and confident self.
- Stories sell – but they need to be relevant to your topic and to your audience.
- Don’t tell jokes (unless you are a professional comedian) or use jargon
- Don’t use Power Point unless there is real value in graphics or when talking with an audience whose language is different from your own.
- Finally, image and body language count. Be your best self, not your laziest one.