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Engaging Presenter Behaviors to Keep Your Audience Awake

Public speaking is a talent that many people must develop over time. Encouraging audience engagement is a challenge for many public speakers. Fortunately, there are many things that can be done to enhance audience engagement and make each presentation more lively and entertaining.

Keep Your Presentation Short

Long presentations can discourage audiences, especially audiences of professionals who have tight schedules, while shorter presentations are refreshing and satisfying. To keep your presentation short, practice it and time yourself. If your presentation goes over, make small cuts to the content without eliminating major ideas. Restructure sentences to deliver content in more concise language. Manage the speed of your delivery to shave off a few minutes from your speech. If you’re still struggling to cut down on the presentation time, ask someone you trust to edit the speech so that content can be cut without detracting from the quality of the presentation.

Tell Stories

Stories help keep the audience listening, and can help audiences make connections between themselves and the content of the presentation. Choose stories that have emotional content to ensure that audiences will enjoy listening to what you have to say.

Vary Your Tone

Talk as if you’re having a conversation with a friend, using the same intonations as you would to talk to someone who makes you feel comfortable. If you find it difficult to vary your tone, practice delivering your speech to someone who you know well, and deliver the speech as if talking to that person in a cafe. Your tone will naturally become varied. Do this several times until the variances in tone feel like second nature.

Use Hand Gestures and Move Around

Moving around and making hand gestures keeps the eyes of the audience in motion. This movement can help make the speech feel more natural and can also give you something to do with your hands and feet, which can relieve any anxiety that you might feel up on the stage. Practicing your movements ahead of time will help ensure that the movements you adopt look natural.

Insert Pauses Between Subjects and Sentences

Many people have a hard time inserting pauses between sentences, especially when standing in front of a large audience. However, pauses are useful because they give audiences a chance to ask questions. Breaks also prevent you from rushing your content.

If you find yourself rushing the content of your presentation, insert exaggerated breaks in between sentences to force yourself to slow down. After practicing adding pauses between these sentences, the breaks will become natural and second-nature.

Record Your Practice Presentation and Watch It Afterwards

Recording your presentation and watching it afterwards will help you make smart adjustments to your presentation style. Do you slouch? Does your voice project far enough? Are you looking at your audience enough? Are your hand movements natural? Assessing your behaviors in front of an audience can help you eliminate bad habits and increase audience attention.

Scatter Humor Throughout

Humor can help make presentations entertaining. Some people are comfortable making jokes spontaneously, but many are not. If you’re not comfortable making jokes on the spur of the moment, insert jokes into the presentation and practice the delivery ahead of time.

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Chris Vendilli
About the Author
Chris is the founder and CEO of Vendilli Digital Group. In his free time, you’ll find him camping, fishing, or playing beer league ice hockey with a bunch of guys who refuse to admit they’re already over the hill.
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