Whether you’re communicating to a party of one in a meeting or a crowd of hundreds from the main stage of a conference, audience engagement is an integral part of public speaking. Your ability to effectively relate to and connect with your audience can ultimately determine the impression you leave. To ensure you make the most of your time, follow these tips.
- Practice Early: Preparation is key. Once you have the presentation date set, work backwards to figure out when you need to start preparing. A day before simply isn’t enough. Instead, consider your presentation’s length and allot enough time to become completely comfortable with the material. Memorization is not the goal as that can backfire if your mind goes blank. However, you should practice the speech till you are used to the flow of your ideas.
- Involve Your Audience: You don’t have to pepper your presentation with questions in order to involve your audience. For example, the simple act of referring to a figure that a coworker shared a few days back can pique your audience’s interest. Referencing points made or goals completed by colleagues can also shift the focus toward a conversation. You can use a similar technique from the main stage by customizing your speech to reference key audience objectives or hot buttons. This makes those in the room feel involved, and thus more invested.
- Use Slides Sparingly: Chances are your presentation will use slides. However, as noted in this Forbes article, you should to see your slides as complementary to, and not a substitute of your presentation. Slides should to draw attention to key figures or statements that you want your audience to remember. At all costs avoid wordy slides or data packed visuals that force your audience to squint.
- Avoid Buzzwords:Plotline Leadership has long maintained that buzzwords add little to your conversation. On that note, don’t be pressured to use jargon as a way to make you sound like an authority figure. Focus on brevity and adding value with each sentence.
- Speak Slowly: When speaking in front of an audience, many people unconsciously increase the speed of their speech. Taking the time to pause and breathe is helpful for both you and your audience. It allows you to gather your thoughts and give the audience time to absorb them. Speaking slowly also allows you to maintain eye contact with your audience and scan the room.
Any act of public speaking is a two-way street between the speaker and the audience. If you’re someone who shrinks at the thought of being the center of attention, you’ll be relieved to know that it’s a skill that can be learned. Mastering the art of audience engagement takes time, but the payoffs are an increased sense of confidence and more thoughtful conversations with your team.
Allie Cooper is a writer, tech enthusiast, gamer, and music lover. You can follow her on Twitter @AllieCooper_18