By Deborah Kohan, Partner at Media Connect
Capturing the interest of an audience can be a tricky endeavor, especially if you are unaccustomed to public speaking. Whether presenting to a ballroom filled with colleagues, sharing your expertise with a classroom of university students or giving an intimate talk at a bookstore, there are essential components to every speaking engagement that can help make it memorable.
The key is mastering the skills needed to convey your message powerfully, no matter what the context. One of the most effective ways to deliver an impactful speech is by utilizing the strategy of VARIETY. When you vary the verbal, physical and visual aspects of your speech, the level of audience engagement increases.
There is much more to vocal variety than alternating between whispering and shouting at your audience. For example, if you speak slowly and loudly your audience will view you as being authoritative. Speak slowly and softly and you are conveying authenticity. The pitch, tempo, and volume with which a speech is delivered all contribute to the length of time an audience remains actively involved.
Pay extra attention to what you are saying as well. Is the sky cloudy and blue? Or is the sky awash with hues of cornflower blue and light grey clouds floating on the horizon?
Tape your presentation. Listen to it with your eyes closed. Have you captured your own interest with the language you used and the variations in speaking style?
How often have we heard experts advise us to take a break and stretch our legs in order to regain focus and efficiency? Your audience is captive in their seats unable to stretch their legs. To combat the audience coma, release your clutch on the podium and walk to the other side of the stage or classroom at key times during your speech or presentation. Doing so will cause your audience to physically move too, as they will follow your movements.
For those in your audience who absorb knowledge from visual rather than auditory cues, add visual spice and variety to your presentation. Interspersing animation, photos, graphs, and videos throughout your presentation alleviates the visual boredom of 10 slides packed only with text.
In addition, you can use visual indicators to assist your audience. If your presentation contains three main ideas, for example, use a different header design in each section to alert your audience that you are switching to another main idea. The visual (and auditory cues) will keep your audience attuned to the three segments of information you wish to share.
Practice in front of colleagues, family and friends. Get their feedback. Which portion of your speech/presentation attracted their attention? What do they remember from your remarks? If you are not able to obtain feedback from others, get it from yourself. Video yourself with your smartphone or stand in front of a mirror and practice.
Rehearse sitting down, and standing up. Again – variety! One school of thought is that by modifying the positions you practice in, you will be less concerned by last minute venue changes such as the podium you were assured would be there is nowhere in sight on the night of your presentation.
If you incorporate variety into your presentation on all levels, it will hopefully inspire those listening to you to take action and buy your book.