Here are some of my tips that will help you regain and retain your audience’s interest:
Write out your speech (of course):
The first tip I have is to write out your speech (of course) with ideas about how to prevent yourself from losing your audience. What is the saying? “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure?” Something like that!
One thing that was really helpful to me when I presented at my Chamber of Commerce a while back was that I came prepared with handouts, 2 to be specific. One was a pen, but not just any pen, it was a wild looking goofy pen that you couldn’t miss and it had my web address and phone # on it. Every place setting got one. You couldn’t help but notice them when you walked into the room. When the time came I started talking about the “FREE” stuff I offer and I noticed the crowd perked up (this was when their attention span seemed to be wavering). I simply said “Everyone likes free stuff and I’ve got plenty of that”. Of course I increased the pitch of my voice there as well. I went on to explain that “first of all these pens are free, I am not going to come around and collect any money from you.” This got a laugh and their attention was renewed because they wanted to know what they were being offered for free!
If possible come prepared with some sort of exercise to engage the audience and save it for when you need it. My other “hand out” at the chamber was simply a packet of slides based on my presentation. At a certain point I was able to ask them to open that packet to a certain page, directly involving them and forcing them to look at something so that their attention was caught (whether I had it before or not).
Focus On The Benefits:
That brings me to my next tip. All too often when presenting people talk about features when most audiences aren’t interested in features. They are interested in “benefits”. “Free” is a benefit (one that everyone happens to like). My “extensive” background and experience is a feature, one that if I spend more than 30 seconds on will most likely bore people, but how I can save you thousands per month by teaching you something you can easily learn and implement? Now that is a benefit worth paying attention to no matter how much I just ate! Right? Look back at the very first line of my reply. That describes a benefit to you which should make you want to read on to find out what these tips are. If I started by saying “I speak around the country regularly to large audiences..” the idea is the same – that I have some experience with this which you might benefit from, but I don’t think it has nearly the same engaging impact as “here are some tips to make you a better speaker”.
Stay focused and Go Deep:
Focus on one simple concept and go deep. I am in talks with Lynda.com now about doing a course for them and this was one of the first things that was stressed to me. Keep the scope narrow and be thorough about it. This helps people stay focused on your content.
The Blog Rule:
The blog rule – no more than 350-600 words for a blog post. The same concept should be applied to speaking. I like to write it out in terms of blog posts for each topic. One blog post = 5 minutes. If I am talking for an hour, that means I have ten blog posts to write (leaving a buffer here so don’t do 12). That keeps the talk in small digestible pieces and as I am writing I have to keep asking myself, what is the benefit to the audience? What will they be able to do after I speak to them, that they weren’t able to do before? Then I need to answer that question for them directly in my content. Also before applying this formula remember that everyone speaks at different speeds. You may need to adjust your formula here. 600 words is ‘about’ one page in MS Word with normal spacing and font size. Can you get through that amount in 5 minutes? If not revise it, fewer blog posts, or keep each segment to 350 words. The shorter each section the better as far as I am concerned.