Have Them “Hanging on Your Every Word”
“To make our communications more effective, we need to shift our thinking from ‘What information do I need to convey?’ to ‘What questions do I want my audience to ask?’”– Chip Heath, professor at Stanford Graduate School of Business
What speaker doesn’t want their audience “hanging on their every word?” We all want engaged audiences who ask questions, provide opinions, and suggest ways to use the information you present.
Fortunately, there are proven ways to do this – the hook, the meat of your presentation, and your sendoff.
There was no Twitter, no Spotify, and no Internet when I was a kid. It was a simpler time. In my grammar school years, the summers were so long with nothing to do. I used to say to my mom, “I have nothing to do.” It was hard to get distracted.
Compare this with your life right now. First, you take them to swim lessons at an ungodly early hour of the day. Then, you take them to and pick them up from soccer practice. Then, at night you work on your online master’s program. You’re busy.
The people that come to see you speak are also busy. They may be physically in front of you or on a virtual platform, but their minds are miles away. So your delivery should start with the hook.
How will you steal your audience’s attention from all the distractions in their lives? Your steal their attention with the hook.
The hook could be many things. But before you decide on just what the hook is, you must know two things about your audience – what they want and need.
There are many ways to determine what your audience wants and needs. Likewise, there are many good books on how to determine the wants and needs of your audience.
Some ways are to talk to the person who booked you for your presentation. More often than not, this person belongs to the organization whose members are your audience.
Another way is to read the journal of the organization to whom you are speaking. An organization’s journal has honed articles to just what the readers want to read.
Finally, and by no means does this exhaust the list, ask the audience members what they want to see in your presentation. I always show to a presentation venue before anyone else. I want to see and talk to the attendees. I ask them strategic questions which provide me with keen insight into their wants and needs.
So you know your audience’s wants and needs. Now comes the hook.
The hook can take many forms. Some of these are:
As the first thing, ask the audience a powerful question about their wants and needs.
Use a quote relevant to their wants and needs to get them thinking
Start with a video sure to get their minds sizzling
It all starts with knowing your audience’s wants and needs.
So, you have their minds percolating, they are sitting on the edge of their chairs, and their eyes are glued to you – the message. So, what do you do next to keep them hooked?
You provide the meat.
The meat is the main body of your presentation: your main points are supported by their sub-points.
The meat is not just a long string of facts. The meat of your presentation must reach your audience emotionally and logically while at the same time entertaining them. That’s right. You have to entertain them. Learning increases dramatically when people have a good time listening to you present.
You must engage both sides of your audience members’ brains. If you don’t, you will likely see many in your audience daydreaming. A daydreaming audience finds your presentation dull, irrelevant, and unentertaining. Entertain or die.
Some of the meat of your presentation may be known to your audience. However, you can “spice this up” by presenting it differently. Studies have shown the adult attention span is about twenty minutes. The meat of your presentation has to maintain the hook. How do you do this?
Well, you break up your presentation using relevant videos, attendee exercises, and small group discussions, to name a few of the things you can do.
Videos engage your audience’s sight, sound, and emotions. They are a great way to regain the attention of your audience.
Attendee exercises are another great way to engage your audience. In these exercises, your audience will apply what you have said in your presentation. In addition, exercises allow attendees to reach a higher level of learning.
Small group discussions allow the presentation attendees to voice their opinions on your topic. Attendees want to react to what you are saying. Give them the chance to do this with small group discussions. After the small group discussion period, it is essential to have a spokesperson from each group report on what the group discussed.
So, you understand you have to hook your audience and deliver the meat of your presentation in various ways to keep your audience interested.
Now, it is time to send them off to apply your advice.
As a Toastmaster for more than thirty years, I have seen many otherwise fine presentations “crash and burn” because the speaker did not have a proper send-off. Sometimes I have seen what I called the “over the cliff” send off to a presentation. The “over the cliff” sendoff is when the presenter doesn’t have a sendoff and just stops talking. This is not pretty since the audience expected a sendoff, and it wasn’t provided.
I am sure you have heard this about how to deliver a speech: tell them what you will tell them, tell them, and tell them what you told them. The sendoff to your presentation must include a summary of what you have delivered. However, the send-off is much more.
People remember beginnings and endings. Therefore, your sendoff must remain with your audience after your presentation is finished.
You, as a speaker, should want your audience to do something with what you are saying. So how do you do this? You give them a call to action.
For example, if your presentation is on getting closer to your children, give them a call to action to take time out of their busy day to talk to their children, take more family vacations, and have family movie nights.
If your presentation is on the joy of antique cars, show them where to find them, how to buy one, and how to maintain them.
If your presentation is on how to give better presentations, give your audience tips for better openings, closings, and audience engagement.
The point here is to give them something they can do to better their lives.
Do you want your audience to be “hanging on your every word?” You bet you do.
Engaged audiences become repeat audiences.
Don’t you want to be called back to speak?
Call to Action
Give serious thought as you are preparing your presentation as to how you are initially going to hook your audience to gain their attention to your topic
Design the meat of your presentation so your audience is emotionally and logically engaged while at the same time being entertained
Make your sendoff to your presentations memorable by providing a summary of your presentation and three calls to action as to what your audience can do with the information you have presented.
“Persuasive communication involves enthusiasm, animation, audience participation, authenticity and spontaneity.”John Maxwell, Leadership Expert
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at firstname.lastname@example.org and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”