5 minutes… That’s all you get.
Within 5 minutes of the start of your talk, speech, or presentation, your audience will make their judgments on whether they will listen to you or not. This makes the first impression you make absolutely crucial.
If you’ve ever stood in front of an audience to give a presentation, deliver a message, or make a pitch, then you know how nerve-racking and discouraging it can be when your audience is sitting down quietly with blank expressions on their faces and the only ones responding to your jokes are the crickets (… Man, don’t you just hate those crickets).
So below are 3 tips on how you can effectively captivate your audience from the moment you get on that platform.
1. Embrace the awkward silence
There are a lot of speakers who start talking the moment they’re given the mic, or the moment they get on stage. This is not necessarily wrong but it does waste a good opportunity to make a dynamic impression.
What you should do instead, is to take your leisurely time walking up to the middle of the platform. Set down your notes or your laptop on the podium. Scan the room. Smile a little bit as you look at your audience (just to show them that the silence isn’t because you’re shy). Then get back to fixing your things on the podium.
Does this sound like the most awkward thing? That’s precisely the point! People will feel so awkward that they’ll be paying attention the whole time. They’ll be sitting at the edge of their seat, waiting for the very first words that come out of your mouth.
2. Do not greet the audience!
I repeat… Do not greet the audience!
Okay, I may be exaggerating this a little bit. There is nothing wrong with greeting your audience. It is the respectful thing to do. In fact, there are certain situations where you have to greet your audience (in formal speeches, for example).
But the reason I say that you should not greet your audience is because greetings are so… mundane. Your audience do not generally need to be reminded that it’s the morning, or the afternoon, or the evening… or that it’s Valentine’s day (I know some people who take offense at being reminded of this particular day).
To captivate your audience with your intro, you have to make the extra effort to move away from the ordinary and generic. And that includes pleasantries.
3. Head, heart, or belly? Take your pick.
This is the part where you actually start talking.
But before you do, you have to choose your target. The head, heart, or belly?
If you choose to target your audience’s head, start by asking a thought-provoking question. Get them to use their brain cells very early on because trust me, as your talk or presentation goes on, their minds will slowly drift away. So right from the start, stimulate their minds.
If you choose your audience’s heart, begin by telling them a story. People like stories. It creates mental images they can relate to. Sharing a story creates a sense of friendship between you and your audience, as though you are sharing your life with them.
If you choose their belly, start by making them laugh. Humor is one of the best captivators and keepers of attention. If you can get your audience to laugh, you’ve held their attention just a few minutes longer. Get them to laugh at consistent intervals and you will have their attention the whole way through your talk.
Here’s the gist…
You don’t have much time to captivate your audience. That means you need to make a good first impression right from the start. Here are 3 ways you can do that:
- Embrace the awkward silence
- Avoid the generic greeting
- Target their head, heart, or belly
Incorporate these 3 things into your intro and you will have an engaged audience at least for the first part of your talk. Sustaining that engagement, however, is for another time.
Practice these and you will build habits that will help you communicate with your audience better.
That’s it for this article. Thank you for reading and I hope you got the gist!