Understand Your Audience: Whether you’re presenting to a small group of decision-makers or making a speech to a large crowd, it’s essential to know what makes the audience tick. What are their primary interests, motivations, challenges and goals? Ascertaining this information empowers you to tailor the talk to the listener(s), increasing the likelihood that you’ll influence them in the way you desire.
Prep Properly: Planning out and practicing your speech is a given. Bolster this effort by reciting it before a trusted colleague, friend or family member; this could yield feedback that compels you to make tweaks that improve the presentation. Don’t let your prep work stop there, though. You should also have fallback plans that address potential “emergencies.” What, for example, will you do if your computer locks and you can’t access your visuals? You don’t need a plan for every stomach-dropping scenario, but you should identify several of your top concerns and have strategies for addressing them.
Start With Style: Get the audience engaged immediately with an entertaining anecdote and/or joke. The story or joke shouldn’t be random; it should set the stage for the key themes of your talk. Executed correctly, this approach seamlessly draws listeners into your presentation.
Structure & Reinforce: Presentations and speeches should proceed in a clear, logical order. The format of telling people what you’re going to tell them, then telling it to them and then telling them what you told them helps ensure your fundamental message is conveyed. Emphasize the essential takeaways more than once.
Be A Bit Vulnerable: While sometimes dependent on the audience, it’s often true that light touches of self-effacing humor and other measures that reveal a slight vulnerability will make you more relatable to listeners. However, know the line between endearing vulnerability and coming off as unprofessional. Avoid anxiety-driven disclaimer comments like “I didn’t really get to work on this as much as I wanted to.” Don’t apologize for tripping over your words or for having small technical slip-ups, like failing to get the correct slide up quickly; just keep going. Also: Smile, projecting positivity and controlled energy. Slouching with a sodden-face and making negative or overly self-critical comments doesn’t make you endearing; it makes you a schlub.
Ask Questions, Don’t Force Them: By now you know a common tactic for keeping audiences engaged is to put questions to them. Still, don’t shoehorn the queries into your talk simply for the sake of doing so. If you do, silence and skin-crawling awkwardness may be your only responses. Instead, the questions should sound conversational – should flow fluidly from the presentation. The right questions at the right time help generate true listener engagement.
Have A Pre-Game Routine: Often, elite athletes have routines they do before taking the field. These rituals sharpen the athletes mentally and bring a sense of calm. Adopt this tactic, establishing a productive routine that helps you be your best. It’s entirely up to you what to do. World famous motivational speaker Tony Robbins’ routine includes bouncing vigorously on a trampoline.
Give Listeners A Next Step: Conclude by providing the audience with a clear call to action. The suggested step should be a natural outgrowth of the speech or presentation, something tied directly to the essential themes of your talk. Perhaps you’re giving a seminar at an industry trade show about how sales pros can leverage social media platforms to help nurture client relationships. Instruct the audience to go home that night and start trying one of the particular strategies that you suggested. Invite them to email you about the types of results they achieve.