Public speaking is all about performance, whether this is on an auditorium stage, in a small room or a huge arena. Holding the attention of your audience throughout your presentation or speech is an area well documented in any public speaking course. Once you’ve learned how to prepare your notes, conquered your fear of public speaking and brushed up your presentation skills, tips on great ways to captivate your audience is the all-important next step!
- Opening Lines
Instantly gain your audience’s interest by using an attention-grabbing opener. The nature of this obviously depends on the type of public speaking event you’re attending, so do consider whether using a joke is appropriate! Starting with a question or a controversial opening statement will often have a dramatic effect.
- Acknowledge your Audience
Let your audience know that you care about the fact that they gave up their precious time to listen to your speech. Many speakers try to block out the people present in the room, sometimes to try to help control their fear of public speaking or because they want to concentrate on their notes. You have to remember that your audience are the reason you’re there in the first place! You’ll win over your listeners a whole lot quicker if you acknowledge their presence, interact with them by asking or answering questions; even just by making eye contact with a few people can make a big difference in your public speaking performance.
- Using Notes and Visual Aids
Most people prefer to have some notes handy for public speaking events, and you may prefer to use slides, Powerpoint or other visual aids. These can be very useful, but be careful not to focus on them too much or you may be in danger of losing the connection with your audience.
- Personality and Expression
Don’t be afraid to let your personality come across at a public speaking event. Unless you think you have potential as an Oscar winner, your audience will see right through any attempt at amateur acting. Be yourself; you’ll gain a lot more respect from the people you’re addressing. Although public speaking is a performance to some extent, it’s your personality and your material that will make it interesting.
- Working the Room
While it’s not a good idea to fidget or nervously fiddle with your notes, moving around the room can really help you to connect with your audience. By simply walking forward to the front of the stage or towards the nearest row of people to emphasise an important point, you can certainly make a powerful impact in public speaking.
- Leaving a Lasting Impression
Finish off your speech with a “wow factor”. Public speaking is not only about getting your point across, the impact you make depends on people remembering you and the important or entertaining content of your speech. Leave a lasting impression on your audience by closing with an interesting or unusual fact, a final question for them to ponder over or a funny comment if the situation allows!