It’s every speaker’s nightmare: a conference audience more interested in its phones, fingernails, or the floor than in what you’re saying. You’ve just made a point you spent days to carefully craft, and all you hear are shuffles and a few coughs.
But there are ways to wake up your audience, capture their attention, and engage them. Here are a few foolproof methods to help.
Know your audience
Investigate beforehand what their goals are. If you’re trying to tell them how to increase their sales, for example, do your homework and find out why they have trouble closing a deal.
In addition, if you’re not an employee, learn all you can about the company, and especially the group of people you’re addressing. What are their problems, anxieties, and obstacles? Then work that information into your talk.
Just because your topic is interesting to you, doesn’t mean it will be to others. So start with a reason your audience should want to hear what you have to say.
Take a tip from feature writers and begin with a human-interest story, such as, “At the second company I worked at, a woman rose from junior analyst to chief financial officer. And she was blind.”
Another great opener is the fact-based introduction: “Would you believe that only two percent of all cold calls eventually result in a sale? I can show you an easier way to close the deal.”
Everyone loves a good laugh, so include a few amusing anecdotes about your subject, or even a self-deprecating story about yourself that illustrates a point you’re trying to make.
Pro tip: Unless you’re a professional comedian, don’t bother telling jokes. They’re liable to fall flat and will end up making your audience uncomfortable, instead of engaged.
Involve your audience
There are numerous techniques that will engage your audience in your presentation.
Some are: the show of hands, calling out audience members, asking questions, phone-based polls, or question opportunities.
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