“People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
– Maya Angelou (American poet)
Audience attention spans are quite short. It is especially true nowadays when virtual events became our reality. Remember, you have only 15 seconds to grab their interest, but holding them engaged throughout the entire speech is more difficult. Before you dive into techniques that unconsciously keep people on the edge of their seats, let’s explore a few general facts:
• In most cases, the audience knows less about the speaking topic than you
• People do care about the matter, but the manner you say makes them leave it or believe it;
• The attention levels peak after you use humor
• audience want a speaker to succeed because people feel excruciating if they see you nervous or confused
Since the audience is virtually always by your side during the presentation, here are some tactics that will make it stick to your words even more.
1. Asking an intriguing question
There are not so many effective methods to captivate the audience as asking a provocative question. The well-crafted question must elicit certain emotions among the people. If you want this tactic to work, the question must be well adjusted to the topic you are speaking about and contain the emotion that needs to be experienced.
In case you speak about the actions people can take to reduce air pollution, your intriguing question may sound like this:
“How would you feel if you found out that your best friend’s parent who recently passed away could survive just in case you use gas logs instead of wood?
This will make others think about the consequences of their choices and consider changing habits. Of course, should your audience feel happy or surprised, the question must be stated differently.
2. Tell a personal story
Words tell stories to sell. It’s proven that personal experiences are extremely good teasers. The best way to do this is through a well-crafted, catchy story. The human brain is hard-wired to remember an effective story rather than sheer information.
Illustrating your points in the way you speak in daily life, can significantly boost audience interest. However, this is far easier said than done. The effective story must be tied to the speaking topic and delivered properly. It should cause excitement and joy providing a solution to the problem that occurred.
3. Make a joke
Being witty can definitely relax and engage. Humor always works because it makes people laugh so they tend to listen to such things.
Unless you are a stand-up comic, your speech is not expected to be entirely humorous. Humor is a powerful weapon, but it should be strategically used. Include entertaining pieces inappropriate spots only and pay attention not to use revolting language. I often recommend students carefully research the views of their audience, to avoid possible misunderstanding.
4. Allow your audience to vote
Opposed opinions are everywhere. Give people a chance to put them up and you will be appreciated. You can do this by asking the audience to choose a specific point of view, out of two or three available.
Simple polling is quite a practical way to activate your audience. However, asking a trivial question like “Do you prefer coffee or tea?” won’t work that well, since most people have the answer ready. I suggest you give a question which will foster the audience to think, where the choice is not easy.
5. Use pauses in a speech
Silence is one of the most effective ways to get other’s attention. When a speaker pauses:
• The audience is focused completely on you;
• You look confident;
• The audience will have more time to process your message;
They will keep eyes on you
Be advised to pause when you want to signal that something important is on the way, or right before you start speaking.
Which strategy should I use?
Honestly, I don’t know. In most cases, it depends upon your goals, type of audience, speaking occasion, etc. There are no good or bad ones and you are welcome to combine some, or even append them all within a speech.
Have you ever used any of these or similar techniques to captivate the audience? Give us a comment about this article or share your experiences.