If you are nervous when speaking in front of lots of people, and it doesn’t feel as if it comes naturally to you, then you could find yourself losing the interest of the audience. If they’re interested and engaged you’ll get the confidence to keep going and deliver your speech – so this is key to helping you to feel at home on stage.
So, how can you engage your audience when it comes to public speaking?
We have put together the top tips and secrets that you need to know.
Keep it conversational
You want to create a free-flowing talk that doesn’t sound too structured. The key to this is to drop the use of jargon and an overly formal attitude - try to make it casual. One of the fastest ways to lose your audience is speaking in terms that they aren’t familiar with or don’t fully understand. By no means dumb your information down, but just include everyone in the audience. The best public speakers engage their audience with a story, making their information engaging to follow. Find your story and deliver it in a conversational style.
Say thank you
This might sound a little silly or obvious but it can be easily overlooked. Firstly, if you have been introduced, thank who introduced you and, secondly, be sure to thank the audience. They have given up their time to listen to you and if you are rude they won’t be interested in hearing what you have to say. It is a very nice and informal way to build a connection with your audience.
This can be a tricky one, especially for those of you who aren’t used to public speaking or get very nervous doing so. Humour is subjective to what you find funny, and isn’t always the same as those who are in your audience, so if it doesn’t come naturally to you then avoid it at all costs because it could backfire. There isn’t anything worse than trying to warm an audience up with a joke that is completely off topic. Still, if you know your audience and feel you can deliver a humorous remark, consider doing this to ‘break the ice’.
Pause for effect
It is important to slow down your pace when speaking. This is something that can be hard to do once you’re up there on the stage and your adrenaline starts going. So, you will need to concentrate, focus and slow down your speaking pace. That way our words will have a much greater impact on the audience. Try to remember that they will be hearing this information for the first time, so they will need time to process it. Pauses also give them time to think of any questions, should they need to ask any. Pause at the end of big chunks of information and don’t be afraid if there is some silence – it’s good thinking time!
Give them something to look at
Audience engagement is a lot better when they have a visual reference point. By this, we mean something to look at during your talk. Set up a PowerPoint and maybe use charts, graphs or hand outs - but make them simple and fairly easy to understand. Otherwise, the audience won’t know whether to look or listen. Visuals will help enforce your talk and mean that all eyes aren’t fully on you if you’re nervous. Take a look at this guide, from Bytestart, on creating the right visuals for your talk.
If you practice your talk over and over again the crowd won’t even notice your delivery or style, they will only notice what you are presenting. All of your rehearsals should be stood up and with your notes in front of you if you need them. This way it will prevent you from feeling the need to turn around and look at a screen behind you on the day of your talk.
This is very important. Try to stay calm and relaxed during your talk the audience will sense if you are really nervous and they won’t like it. They need to know that they can trust and believe in what you are saying and this won’t happen if the nerves get the better of you. The Genard Method has developed a five minute technique on how to calm your fears of public speaking which is worth checking out.
By following these tips, you will build a connection with your audience and you’ll engage them – they will remember you and it will be all for the right reasons.