August 28, 2023

5 Simple Ways to Wake Up Your Audience

Public Speaking , Presentation Tips

Audiences crave variety. It's an insight Buckley coach Chakisse Newton likes to offer our public speaking students. And if you've ever been looking out at a room full of people who seem to be getting a little weary, it's a great tip: Presenter, mix it up!

Here are five simple ways to wake them up: 

1. Convert a statement into a question.

Rhetorical questions are a well-known presentation tool used by speakers from across the ages. Still, we forget how powerful it can be to shift from telling to asking. So instead of launching into your next section with We need a better strategy you might say Why do we need a better strategy?

How does that wake up an audience? (We'll pause here, as one does after asking a rhetorical question, so our audience can think of their answer before we offer ours. Read on.)

Your audience, as they consider your question, is no longer passively receiving the information you're serving up. You've encouraged them to think.

2. Poll your audience.

It can be as simple as asking for a show of hands, as athletic as having them stand or move, or even technology-driven. A poll asks people to a) make a decision and b) take an action. These things can get the audience moving mentally and physically during your presentation. 

3. Change where you're standing.

If you've been delivering a speech from a lectern, you can move out out from behind it. If you've been standing on one side of the room, you can walk to the other side and present for a while. Relocating yourself will change your relationship to the audience and give them a visual shift that can be an energy boost.

Change where you stand. Tell a story. Something simple that mixes it up can wake up your audience.

4. Tell a story (and be animated about it).

Stories aren't guaranteed to wake an audience up, and we know plenty of speakers who can drone on too long with these. Still, when you've been relaying complex information or a load of data and you sense the audience is lagging, a story can be just the thing to bring that information to life.

Using an example or painting a picture of how that data can be applied engages the imagination, which in turn engages a weary audience. 

5. Ditch your PowerPoint and speak to the audience.

Even when a deck is well designed, it's no replacement for you. Watching slide after slide can make an audience listless. Using either the B key or the button on your clicker, send the screen to black, step forward, and speak to them for a while. Then, when you've dialed up the energy in the room, you can hit the B key or that button again and resume showing more slides to finish out your presentation.

Don't despair, just be aware!

The next time you notice a slump, make a little move to change things up and see if you can get the audience re-engaged. (Then if the people in the room are truly exhausted, it might be time to cut some material and wrap things up.)

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