By Maureen Renzi, Vice President - Communications
Whether you have been doing public speaking for many years or you’ve been invited to speak before a group for the first time, it’s important to stay connected with the audience. There’s no doubt that content is king – you need to know your subject matter inside and out – but don’t forget to spend some time considering your audience. Here are 10 tips to help you connect with your audience and keep them engaged.
- Arrive early. The time before a presentation offers a great opportunity to connect with the audience and learn more about them. Plus you want to be sure you are comfortable with the room and the technology that will be used.
- Use your intro to build your credibility. As the saying goes, you only get once chance to make a first impression. Don’t count on the meeting planner to highlight the most important points of your career. Give them a bulleted list of what you would like highlighted. If you’ve known the person doing the introduction for years, he or she may need this more than anyone. You certainly don’t want the intro to start with “I’ve known this speaker since junior high when we were …” or “We first met at a keg party in college.” If you are a CPA, be sure that a mention of your credential is part of your introduction. According to research conducted by Gallop and funded by the AICPA, CPAs are the second most highly respected professionals, second only to doctors.
Start your presentation with a list of things you hope to cover. Get buy in from the audience and ask if there’s anything else they were hoping to learn during your session. Be honest in your response to these requests. If someone has an expectation that you know you won’t be able to address, tell them if it’s outside the scope of the planned discussion and offer to talk to them afterward to explore these concerns. Or tell them to add the topic request to the evaluation form so it can be planned for in the future.
When public speaking, connect with your audience
and keep them engaged.
- Eye contact. Keep your head up and scan the room. If you are also being webcast, be sure to look into the camera occasionally. A trick that many presenters use is to keep your laptop in front of you so you can scan the content without having to turn your back on the audience.
- Make sure your body is telling the same story as your voice. Body language can signal the audience whether or not you are listening to their questions. Body language, facial expressions, and movement affect the delivery of your message. In fact, this topic is one of the most popular TED Talks. Don’t be afraid to practice in the mirror and look at your facial expressions – they can help you deliver your most important points. Be conscious of your movement. A confident speaker will claim their space, but being jittery or overly active delivers a message of nervousness or anxiety. And watch your hand movements.
- Everyone loves a story. Engage your audience by sharing a story that you believe your audience will be able to relate to, will explain one of your presentation points, or will build your credibility. (You may get some ideas if you’ve had some time to talk to attendees. See point No. 1).
- Keep it real. If you are using statistics, connect the numbers to the audience’s concerns. You want to be sure you answer the question: “What does this mean to me?” In fact, don’t be afraid to use the term “What does this mean to you?” It is an effective cue for a sleepy participant to perk up.
- Use engagement checks. Ask people questions. Ask for a show of hands – and raise your hand while asking the question. Ask a rhetorical question and nod your head while querying the audience.
- Close with a purpose. Ask people to set a goal and give them an assignment so there is a plan of action.
- Review the questions and goals that were set at the beginning. Have you answered the goals and questions posed by the audience?
If you follow these tips, chances are you will be successful in keeping your audience engaged. Good luck!