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Speaking Tips: Great Public Speaking How To Hold An Audience
Think in pictures and let the words flow automatically
Public Speaking Clubs and Classes Don't Prepare You for Longer Speeches
Welcome to Speaking Tips: Great Public Speaking - How to Hold and Audience.
When you join a class to learn great public speaking the chances are you’ll never get the opportunity to speak for more than ten minutes or so at one given time. This is simply because there are others involved and everybody needs to have a turn. This means that in a two-hour class containing some ten to a dozen people, you might get a couple of chances to speak for five minutes. So how are you going to develop the skills to hold an audience for perhaps thirty, forty, fifty minutes – even a hour! as could well be expected of you if you wish to become a well-known public speaker?
They don't want ten minutes of your time: they want an hour!
Let us face it. When you’re invited along to speak at your local Rotary or Lions Club they’ll expect you to speak for twenty to thirty minutes. If the same invitation comes from a non-dinner event, such as a Probus club, or a big Seniors group, you’ll be expected to go for fifty minutes. Not only that, you’ll be expected to keep them interested for the whole time. If you can’t, you won’t be invited back again. And if you’re not in that category of “Let’s have this guy back again,” you won’t get the word-of-mouth referrals which will kick off your career as a speaker.
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So let’s have a look at some of the essentials as far as keeping an audience riveted for, say, an hour. Oh, and remember, if just one person in that audience turns to another to tell him or her something, in other words they’re talking when you speak, then you are not performing at your best. Likewise, if one person nods off to sleep – except maybe in a retirement village or nursing home – then you are not coming over as that riveting speaker you aspire to be. Cruel to mention it, but true.
How to Hold an Audience - You'll know when you're doing it right
If, on the other hand, at the end of that great public speaking presentation people hurry forward to talk with you, perhaps to congratulate you on your speech or story, to ask for your card, or say, “We must have you back.” You’ll know that you’ve done well. You’ll know that you’ve done well, anyway, by the feelings you have inside as you wrap up with your final few sentences.
Okay, so what are some of the pre-requsites for keeping them so interested that they’re glued to their seats, eyes affixed on you, responding to everything you do in a positive way?
Speaking Tips: Content and Delivery are of Equal Value in a Speech or Story
It goes without saying (strange phrase that, for everybody then goes on to say it) It goes without saying that your subject must be of interest to the audience. That’s essential. It is equally important that your delivery – which as I’ve said in a previous Hub – is excellent, matching what you’re saying. But there is something else again. It isn’t quite as essential as these two but it does help a great deal, especially in the longer-type presentation: audience participation. In learning how to hold an audience, we need to exercise this.
So what are some of the ways this can be done?
Your career as a speaker
It does not have to be complicated. Just asking a question and asking for a show of hands is one way; probably the simplest and most effective way. Or you could ask a question and when the hands go up, ask just one member of the audience a further question. I do that in some of my longer – forty-five to fifty-minute presentations – and I do it early: within the first few minutes. Let me give you an example of part of my presentation on the early history of MacQuarie Island and then my come back. It’s a presentation I’ve done at least a hundred times, and it hasn’t failed yet.
Ask 'em questions. But be sure that they can answer at least some of them
“Anyone here been to the Bay of Islands in New Zealand?”
You’re wise to ask a question you anticipate you’ll get a goodly number in your audience can respond with a positive. (With an East Coast Australian Audience this is a safe question)
Out of an audience of, say, sixty people, up go a dozen hands. Then I say,”
“Would you say it’s a beautiful place?”
“Yes,” “Terrific” “Wonderful place.” a few say. I focus on just one, someone near the front.
“It was beautiful then, too. Trouble was the Maoris weren’t friendly.” (a pause) “They would invite you to dinner.” (gets a laugh because most in the audience are aware that the New Zealand natives back in 1810 were renowned as cannibals)
If you want great public speaking don't stand behind a written speech and read it - unless you're a politician
Throughout the presentation, not too much, but here and there, you ask the audience other questions that at least some of them can answer. If no answer comes, you simply provide it. You can joss with them a little, “I thought you people were historians?”
What I’m saying here is avoid the long diatribe. Be real. Be there. Really learn public speaking. Don’t hide behind a written speech and read it. Know your stuff. Sure, you’ll come across as a little larger than life. You need to, especially if the audience is big. But you won’t find this hard because you’ll be feeding off, or at least revitalized, by their energy, their enthusiasm for what you’re on about.
By letting them into the action, they'll love you for it
So this is how to hold an audience. This is how to develop your career as a speaker. You’re presenting the speech or telling the story, but you are letting them into the action, albeit only here and there. But that little ‘here and there’ makes all the difference in the world. Try it. It works.
I hope you both enjoyed and gained something from Speaking Tips.
More on the writer
- Tom Ware Public Speaking The Prince of Storytellers
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