You have around 10 seconds to capture their attention before they tune out. Are you ready?
Unless you're a super confident speaker, by the time you're on stage and have your nerves under control, those ten seconds have probably already passed. And you will have missed the biggest opportunity of your entire talk to engage and captivate the audience.
I speak at events fairly regularly, and as an introvert it is always a struggle, both before and after, every talk I deliver. However, at the right events it is one of the best offline channels that you can use to build your personal brand.... and I am a brand builder so it's always more of a walk the walk situation than a "yippee, I can't wait to be on stage" type of occurrence!
I also work with corporate clients to coach their speakers and panellists before big events, often with the brief of bringing out their human side. I'm never looking for 10/10 from either myself or my clients because perfection isn't very human and it can be so shiny that nothing ever sticks. I always want to see everyone I work with do their very best and 7/10 is more than good enough. I want their stories to be personal and more importantly, to be heard. I want to see a crowrd of faces watching the speaker, not checking their phones. And I want that for you to... whoever you are, wherever and whenever you're reading this.
So here are my Top Tips, which I hope help you to deliver your next talk with impact:
1. Don’t talk right away
Never talk as you walk out on stage – it’s a sign of nerves and it communicates any insecurity or fears that you may be feeling. Instead, quietly walk out on stage, take a deep breath, find your place, and wait a few seconds before you begin. It sounds long and tedious and it can feel awkward when you do it but it shows the audience you're confident and in charge of the situation.
2. Captivate their attention at the beginning, and close with a dynamic end
Do you enjoy hearing a speech start with “Today I’m going to talk to you about X”? Most of us don’t. Instead, use a startling statistic, an interesting anecdote, a concise quotation or even a prop! The use of a prop may feel odd in a business setting but if you’re holding a physical object as a metaphor, something that people don’t understand, it will help to get people’s attention. You have around 10 seconds to capture their attention and captivate them before they tune out. You also have around one minute to get audience interaction so getting them to raise a show of hands is a great way to get them to engage, interact and listen to what you are about to say. The ending is as important, it is what your audience will remember so conclude your speech with a summary, combined with and a strong closing statement.
The right word might be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause - Mark Twain
3. Don’t distract them
Body language: Use your voice and hands effectively. Non-verbal communication carries most of the message. Good delivery conveys the speaker’s ideas clearly and without distraction.
Reading: Reading from a script or slide fractures the interpersonal connection. By maintaining eye contact with the audience, you keep the focus on yourself and your message. Practice, practice and more practice is the trick to not needing to read whilst on stage but if you have to, work from a brief outline which will serve to jog your memory and keep you on track.
Visual aids: Keep in mind that it’s best to use visual aids wisely. Too many images, words and stats on screen can distract and break your direct connection with the audience, so use them sparingly. If you are planning to use them, ask yourself: “Do they enhance or clarify my content?” If your answer is yes and they capture and maintain your audience’s attention, use them. If not, ditch them!
All that is left for me to do is remind you that 7/10 is good enough and wish you every success with your upcoming talk!