Seize and hold your audience’s attention

Chris Gardner giving a speech

Are your presentations feeling a little stale? You don’t need to alter the meat of your message to reinvigorate your speeches. Before you scrap all your hard work, make these small adjustments:

  • Enhance your opening. Skip your typical introduction and launch right into a story. It can be a piece you’ve prepared ahead of time or an off-the-cuff anecdote about something that just occurred backstage. Ideally, your story will be at least tangentially related to your speech topic, but even if it’s not, jump right in. After you wrap up your story, transition into your introduction.

Why it’s effective: Stories grab your audience from the get-go in a way that a standard introduction never could. In Forbes’s Persuasive Public Speaking blog, Nick Morgan uses the analogy of movie openings to make this point. Older classics such as Casablanca and Rear Window began with the credits. As much as I love both of those films, I have to acknowledge that I’m not instantly hooked by either. Contemporary films like Batman Begins, on the other hand, almost never begin with credits. They jump right to the story. Do that with your speech and your audience will be paying attention from the moment you start.

  • Delay the closing. Including a Q-and-A period in your speech is a great way to ensure that you meet your audience’s needs. However, saving it for the very last spot in your presentation is risky. Instead, save a few minutes following the Q-and-A session to wrap up your speech on your terms.

Why it’s effective: When you end with questions you give up all control over the walk-away message and feeling that your audience members leave with. What if the last question is rambling, off-topic, argumentative or stumps you? None of those will lead to a powerful closing. If you return to your planned conclusion though, you have the opportunity to end the presentation on a high note.

What’s the best opening or closing you’ve ever witnessed?

Want to improve your storytelling skills? Master storyteller Slash Coleman teaches you how in the audio conference “Presentation Power: Command Your Audience and Inspire Action With Corporate Storytelling.”

[Image Source: dbking]

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