The human mind has a tendency to wander when it is not focused or totally absorbed in activity or thinking. A challenge facing every public speaker therefore is to make a presentation that grips the attention of the audience.
Use these five public speaking tips to prevent the audience taking mental excursions:
1. Question Hooks
Questions really get the audience hooked.
The brain has a natural tendency to want to answer questions. When you are in the middle of doing something and someone asks a question what happens? Your brain immediately stops what it is thinking about and gives attention to the question, even if it is only momentary.
So, in a presentation, use rhetorical questions liberally. Even though you supply the answer, the very fact you asked a question will keep your audience with you.
In your preparation, think out a number of rhetorical questions and sprinkle them throughout your outline or notes.
Example: If your presentation is about goal setting, before getting to the first main point you might say: “What's the very first step in any goal setting exercise?" Then state step one. The very fact you have asked a question will hook the audience and not only get them thinking but motivate them to concentrate on what you are going to say next.
Why? Because their brains are screaming for an answer. After all, you just asked a question!
2. Emotion Engages The Heart
Using emotion in your delivery will win the hearts of your listeners. Rather than appearing cold and unapproachable, a warm style of expression will bring you close to your audience so they will open their hearts to you.
A relaxed facial expression, a smile, a general demeanor that says “You're a great audience, I like you" will make you personable and well liked. An audience will learn from a speaker they feel drawn to.
3. Facial Expressions
Use facial expressions - movements of the eyes, mouth, brow, etc. Especially when repeating someone else's words, or when telling a story or anecdote, your face should reflect the emotions and feelings of the speaker you are quoting or of the characters you are describing.
4. Vary The Pace
Learn to vary the rate at which you speak during your presentation.
There will be sections where you speak more rapidly and sections where you slow down and speak more deliberately.
This is the mark of an experienced speaker - the ability to match speaking pace with the thought content and emotional tone of the material being presented. To develop this public speaking skill, start off by looking through your material in the preparation stage and marking in your notes where you might speed up or slow down.
5. Don't Be Boring
As part of your preparation, ask yourself, ‘What does my audience already know about this subject?’ Then research your subject looking for material outside the general knowledge of your audience.
Just covering things they already know will lead to boredom and lack of interest. Present new information or fresh angles on a familiar subject and keep them enthralled!
Keeping your audience engaged can be a challenge, especially in a presentation longer than 30 minutes. Use the five public speaking tips above and greatly minimize the risk of your audience being present in body but absent in mind!
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