[Toastmasters] How to Keep Your Audience Focused

Random Observation/Comment #402: Even if you have good content, your delivery mechanics and techniques are very important for persuading and inspiring an audience.

see lemons pay attention

I recently read “The One Minute Presenter” by Warwick John Fahy and it gave a few great tips for keeping the audience engaged in your speech.

The book starts off with talking about how our attention is constantly being pulled in multiple directions because of the new age of email, internet, social media, and overall instant gratification.  We’ve essentially lost the art of sitting down and truly listening to a speaker without thinking about the million other things we think are important.  I relate it to my personal need to listen to audiobooks at 1.5x or 2x speed in order to pack more data into my daily commute.

Fahy continues by suggesting eight steps for keeping the audience focused that I’ve processed and summarized:

  • Be authentic and sincere. Cite your stake in the topic by including personal stories and showing you’re passionate. Be confident and candid.
  • Know your audience. Make sure your language, tone, and emphasis matches that of who’s listening and what you want them to get out of your presentation.  Address your audience’s interest into your presentation by directly telling them what they can take away from the presentation.
  • Be direct with your message. Your presentation should have an exact goal (e.g. persuading a point, raising awareness, informing on a project, etc). Tie this message into your presentation with your introduction, body, and conclusion.
  • Connect with your audience. Let the audience know where you’re going with your speech and give them indicators of time and pace. Show enthusiasm and high energy to keep people engaged. Your body language here can make a big difference by walking towards certain members to convey ideas or acting out parts of your speech to show some movement on stage.
  • Deliver with Style. I kept Fahy’s title for this because it’s so true. Make your presentation a performance with a purpose and tell your audience with the intonations and strength as you would for reading an audio book or reading something to a child.  Use pauses, pitch changes, word emphasis, and high volume to keep people involved in a conversational way.  Also use gestures and presentations where necessary, but try to keep the presentation on you and not reading off slides.
  • Manage your space and prepare for interruptions. Knowing your stage is critical and one of the main things you can control and prepare for, so show up early to the location and review last minute
  • Be prepared to answer questions. Q&A is one of the most difficult parts, but you can anticipate questions by practicing with a possible audience member and asking them for questions. If you don’t know the answer to questions, you can always defer by saying you can take it offline.
  • Be Time Conscious. Respect your audience’s time by finishing within the allotted time.

Most of these rules/suggestions are repetitive among books, but I really like how Fahy organizes these points and provides some important examples and insights.  Hopefully you can capture your audience’s attention and make them focus on the key points in your delivery.

~See Lemons Capture the Audience