You’re a motivational speaker and a good one. You’re invited to speak at numerous sales conferences all over the country. It’s tiring work but you love it. Connecting with an audience, getting the desired reaction, gives you a big kick.
That said, you don’t always connect that easily and sometimes you suffer from speaker fatigue – or perhaps your audience is suffering from listener fatigue? To avoid boredom in a presentation or speech, here’s some useful advice to help you engage an audience.
- Why should they listen?
If your audience doesn’t have an obvious reason to be interested, then you need to tell them why they should listen. This can be awkward because some audiences are not there voluntarily. The answer? Tell them why they should care.
If you’re speaking about sales and marketing, then tell the audience about a few sales people who overcame extraordinary obstacles and made it to the top. Tell them how their lives were changed. Excite them!
- Stick to your subject
Talk only about those things your audience is expecting to hear. This may sound obvious, but there are speakers who end up going off on a tangent and talking about something completely different.
Some years ago, I witnessed a speaker making this mistake. He was due to talk about email marketing, but for some reason he started talking about Search Engine Optimisation for websites. He began by telling his 100-strong audience that he wasn’t going to talk about email marketing but rather about SEO.
He then asked how many audience members had a website, and watched as only 5 put up their hands. So, did he go back to speaking about email marketing? No, he didn’t, and 95 people had to sit through something they had no interest in.
- Make sure your presentation has ‘flow’
If your presentation is compelling and audience members are hanging on your every word, then you’re in a state of ‘flow’. For flow to occur, the task of listening should not be too easy or too hard. A presentation presents a challenge to audience members – they are required to think, and you need to find the right level of challenge for your particular audience.
When a speaker wades through a series of bullet points, there’s no challenge and audiences get bored very quickly. Conversely, if the speaker rattles through the details of a complicated flow chart without explaining what it’s about, the challenge will be too great. A good tip is to ask yourself a few times during your presentation, ‘Is this too easy or too hard?
- ‘Change’ is a way to grab attention
Because people’s concentration levels wander, you need to keep their attention. The best way to do this is to change what’s happening during your presentation. Try some of these:
- Change from slides to a flipchart and back again
- Change from listening to you to discussing a topic with the colleague next to them
- Change from sitting around tables to standing around a flipchart
- Show a short video
- Employ audience response systems
- Use a long silence before and after an important statement
- Tell stories
Every presentation should include a sprinkling of anecdotes. People are hard-wired to listen to stories and perk up the minute you say, ‘Let me tell you a story about…’ But make sure the stories reinforce the points you’re making.
- Take frequent breaks
You need to let an audience take frequent breaks, sometimes for just one or two minutes so they can refresh their drinks and walk around. Moving is a very effective way of keeping people attentive.
- Get them moving
It’s estimated that audiences only pay attention for around 8 minutes at a time, so every so often get them to do some easy physical exercise like walking around the room in a conga line … with you leading them. Not only is this fun, but it will pump some more energy into everyone.
- Let your audience talk
By letting audience members talk, they’ll feel valued. It also gives you chance to take a short break, mentally. Ask members of the audience some direct questions. In this way, you’ll be able to find out how they feel about your topic and the content of your presentation.