Audience Engagement: 4 Ways to Be The Best Speaker

I look forward every year to Leadercast, an event which is fairly new, held in Atlanta, Georgia. In addition to the live event, it is also broadcast to millions of people around the world via webcast. I've watched the livecast the last two years and even blogged about the key take-aways from last year's event ("Taking Personal Inventory.") I always love the motivation the event provides from the world-class line-up of speakers they feature and the quotes/key messages on leadership they deliver are valuable reminders.

This year, I unfortunately wasn't able to make it, but my husband and his workplace participated last week. When I asked him with enthusiasm, what speakers he enjoyed most, I was surprised at his answer. It turns out that many of the speakers he (and I for that matter) had expected to be phenomenal, because of their resume and list of accomplishments, fell flat compared to some of the other speakers who were more unknown, but did an amazing job at keeping the audience engaged. These speakers were effective in delivering presentations had many key messages that hit home with the audience.

Audience Engagement

This surprised me, because like many others, when you have an expectation of a speaker, and they fall flat in their delivery when they have so much to say... or could say... its a disappointing experience. After hearing from my husband what the exceptional speakers did to "stand out" compared to others who fell flat, I realized it came down to 4 key traits in their delivery that helped them to keep the audience engaged, including my husband.

4 ways

Don't Use Notes, Be Animated: I admit it, I am guilty sometimes of using notes when really, notes are just a safety crutch. If you've practiced your presentation enough than you don't need notes as you know what stories to tell and your slides have the appropriate cues to prompt you where/when needed to tell such stories. When you don't use notes (and aren't standing behind a podium if necessary), the crowd gets a full view of who you are. You are more likely to be animated (use your hands, gestures and better body language) while you present which entertains the crowd far more than watching someone stand and read notes.

Have Key Messages & Take-Aways: The best presentations are structured around main themes/messages so when the presentation is done, the audiences know the "3" things they covered or the "4 themes" discussed as an example. If, by the end of your presentation, you've left the audience confused as to what your views are on the aforementioned topic, or they feel they didn't learn anything from your presentation, then its a lost opportunity. Try and structure key messages following the "Rule of 3" as its easier for people to memorize things in 3's (I should have taken my own advice for this post! Ha!)

Tell Stories that Portray the Value of your Key Messages: Nothing is worse than watching/listening a presenter who reads their slides verbatim. We can clearly read what you wrote on the slide. A better, more memorable experience is to tell a personal story relating to the key message you are trying to make a point about. The story will not only entertain the crowd but makes it easier for the audience to remember the point you are trying to make and the key messages you want to leave with them.

Practice, Practice, Practice: This one seems easy, I know, but so many presenters don't do this! While the use of a teleprompter may be the real reason some of the Leadercast speakers delivered flawless performances, the reality is that the best speakers know that the art of public speaking and the best delivery doesn't begin at the microphone. It begins weeks, if not months in advance of a presentation. They work to develop what their theme is; what their key messages are; they craft an eye-catching powerpoint (if they need one); they decide what stories they want to share; and how decide how they want to deliver the presentation before they rehearse by themselves time and time again until they have content/delivery nailed down.

By following these 4 tips the next time you present, your experience will not only be more enjoyable for you but I can guarantee you, your audience will be more engaged (and appreciative!) and you may just get another call for a follow-up presentation!

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