Public Speaking – How to Keep Your Audience’s Attention

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There are four essential elements that you need to master if you are ever going to be a successful public speaker and fully engage your audience.

Eye Contact:
Over 80% of your impact is going straight into your audiences eyes…so look at them…not the floor or the walls or the ceiling or at your visual aids…look at the people. Spread your eye contact evenly throughout the room. Avoid looking at anyone for two long. You can get into all sorts of emotional bother if you stare someone in the eyes for too long! And random the eye contact. Don’t sweep the room like a lighthouse. Your audience will soon get into your rhythm and play games anticipating your next visit! A golden rule is, if your mouth is working you should be looking at your audience. If you have to look away for any reason (to get a drink of water for example or to write on a flip chart) stop talking and only allow your mouth to start working again when you are facing your audience.

Notes:
Don’t over script your talks and don’t hold your notes. If you are holding your notes you will continuously glance down at them, even when you don’t need to, and thus lose eye contact with your audience.If you hold your notes there is a danger that you will read them and that the language you use will be stilted and that all of the emotion will go out of your voice. You will certainly stifle your gestures. Just use keywords or pictures on a piece of card to prompt you. Write big, use colour and put your notes on a table at the side of your presenting area. You can then go over and have a look at them whenever you need to. You are the expert on the subject you are talking about. That’s why it’s you who is giving the talk. If you can’t manage without copious notes, what chance does your audience have?

Humour:
Presentations do not have to be totally serious. In fact, it’s a big mistake if they are. Inject some humour. Provide a contrast to your serious messages. Show that you will be an OK person to work with…that you have more than one side to your personality. Audiences need a release from the formality of a business presentation. Think of the times that you have been in an audience and how you felt when there was an opportunity to laugh. You felt refreshed, ready for the next bit. You don’t need to be the wittiest person on Earth. Just take every opportunity possible to ‘lighten-up’ your talk. The sort of humour that gets a laugh in a business presentation would rarely be funny anywhere else. Observe other good presenters to see what I mean. Do not tell jokes. They usually seem out of place and can destroy your credibility.

Stories, Examples and Anecdotes:
The most powerful device available to a presenter and one that cannot be overused. Stories etc. bring a presentation to life, make it interesting, make it memorable. They make abstract concepts real. Our experience is that you should surround the message that is in your story with as much imagery as you can. Really go to town on the story. Tell us about the people, the weather, the buildings, anything to bring the story to life. What happens, if you include this apparently irrelevant material, is that your audience will understand your message more easily and, perhaps, more importantly, they will remember it for longer. What happens is that people build up a vivid mental picture in glorious Technicolor as you are speaking and it is that picture they will remember and thus the point you made. So try starting your stories with a phrase like, ‘It was a cold rainy day in February, the wind was howling, the dogs were barking…’ rather than just telling the story without the atmosphere.

These four elements will breath life into your presentations. The audience will see you as someone who is confident, engaging and interested in them.

Bob Malloney, a soft skills trainer for over 20 years, can help you to make a real difference to your working life, all from the comfort and convenience of your PC. Streaming video courses that replicate instructor-led training in Personal Organisation, Presentation Skills, Relationship Selling and Negotiating Skills. Register now for a free, no obligation 7-day trial at http://www.videocoaching.tv

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