7 ways to enchant your audience

Do you ever bring audience members on stage, or ask for the audience’s help? Doing so could make you their new favorite speaker.

How can you go beyond the usual efforts to create a successful presentation and enchant your audience? What are the secrets to creating magic with a speech?

Here are seven ways to take your speech beyond the ordinary. Some of them will be familiar, but hopefully at least one will be new to you, and help you connect with your audience better:

1. Tell a story. “Of course I tell stories,” you’re thinking. But do you make your whole speech a story? You probably just drop in the occasional anecdote.

Think about the standard Hollywood three-act structure. Do you raise the ante a third of the way through your talk, and then again two-thirds of the way through? Do you introduce conflict and suspense? Do you keep the audience on tenterhooks until the final curtain?

If you don’t, you’re not using storytelling the way you should to create forward momentum and suspense in a speech.

2. Involve the audience. The sweetest sound just about anyone can hear is the sound of his or her name. So, bring members of the audience in as examples, testimonials, subjects, exemplars of excellence and so on. Cite them, call them out and use them as the heroes of your stories. You’ll have to do your homework to make this technique work, but the results will certainly justify the effort.

3. Bring the audience on stage. The most vivid and memorable form of audience involvement is to bring someone from the group onstage and have them do something relevant and fun. This technique should always be voluntary or arranged in advance—don’t drag an unwilling person on stage with you.

4. Engage the audience in a unique way. There are few greater thrills rock bands can give their audiences then to play a song for the first time, or bring someone famous on stage to jam with them. Consider what the speaker equivalent would be. What can you do to give the audience a one-of-a-kind experience?

5. Poll the audience. Audiences today expect to participate. So, let them. Ask for their help in choosing or deciding something. It’s not fair to expect audiences to create something from scratch and have it be of high quality, so don’t ask them to come up with a name for something unless you can get them to pick from a list.

6. Enlist the audience’s help. Get the audience to sign up for your cause. Get audience members to pledge to a worthwhile effort or commit to a goal. Get them to donate time, help or work. Audiences love when you ask for their help—as long as you do it in the right way—so don’t be shy. First engage them with the worthiness of the cause, and then enlist them in the effort.

7. Thank the audience. What the speaker shares with an audience is a gift, and even the dullest speaker deserves appreciation. Similarly, the audience gives the speaker the gift of attention. Thank the audience when you’re done. Give them a code, coupon, discount-some kind of present to show your appreciation. Say thank you, and mean it.

Every audience is an opportunity to connect and build community in ways that go beyond the usual handouts and slides. Stretch yourself as a speaker, and figure out something unique for each audience. You and your audience will be glad you did.

A part of this article is adapted from Nick Morgan’s book, “Power Cues: The Subtle Science of Leading Groups, Persuading Others, and Maximizing Your Personal Impact.” A version of this article originally appeared on Public Words.


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