6 ways to keep your audience riveted on stage
Starting the speech on a humorous note lets go of all the seriousness and makes the environment comfortable
First 60 seconds of a speech are the most important. Be it in a meeting, an event or a conference, audience make important decisions about you in the first 60 seconds.
Many spend a lot of time figuring out what is the pitch-perfect way of starting and yet they end up with a boring, "Thank you so much, it's a pleasure to be here", or even worse, "I'm sorry, this isn't going to take very long."
Every speech gives you a phenomenal opportunity to make an ever-lasting impression on the pool of audience. However, you can only leave that impression if you can get them engaged from the word go. That's life. We are human, and the first impression is still very relevant and often is hard to change.
Grabbing the attention of the audience ensures connectivity, interest, and a great momentum throughout the speech. There are many unique and creative ways to start a speech. Body language tells a lot and impacts the subconscious state of the audience. They will instantly know if you are nervous or confident. Use your energy to feed the audience. Here are some successful ways to start a speech:
Evoke suspense or curiosity: Asking a question whose answer will be revealed later during the speech will bond the audience throughout the session, keeping them curious and engaged. They would be interested in knowing the details of the topic.
Interact with the audience: Go around the audience, interact with them, ask for their views, or suggestions. Do a quick poll and ask why do they think so. This will help start the session from the viewpoint of the listeners and further create an environment of rich involvement and participation. You may also use their answers as examples or references in middle of the session.
Use humour: Starting the speech on a humorous note lets go of all the seriousness and makes the environment comfortable for everyone. It might be a content-related joke or just a sarcastic greeting that can bring some casualness which promotes audience engagement.
Share facts: Any interesting fact or statistical number related to the content grabs attention. Consider this, "Over the next 15 minutes of our conversation, 150 people are going to die globally because of smoking cigarettes. Together, we can prevent this from happening." This way to start adds urgency and increased importance to discuss the given topic.
Anecdote: Sharing a personal story or your experience related to the theme interests the audience. Even the most boring topics can have very interesting anecdotes which the audience might not have thought of but can easily relate to.
Imagine: Ask the audience to close their eyes and visualise a situation. It puts them directly into the presentation and makes each member imagine what would they have been doing or reacting to in a particular situation. For example, "Imagine you are jumping out of the plane for skydiving in Australia and you discover that the parachute can't open. What memories would flash before you? But now, somehow suddenly parachute opened. How differently would you act when you landed?" The audience will also be very interested in knowing what other members imagined or how others react to a particular situation.
You have to set your tone and develop a mood which maybe of deep concern, fear, love, comedy, or sarcasm. First words count, find something which can truly get into the heart of the people and make them deeply interested and connected throughout the speech.
Silvia Vianello is Director of Innovation Lab at the S P JAIN School of Global Management
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