When I prepare for a talk I always think about WHY I am on stage. I can usually distill that down to one sentence. It’s either a specific message or insight that needs to be shared or some kind of announcement that is being made. I never come up with any of these answers independently. I always ask the event organizers questions such as:
- Who is in the audience
- What is their demographic
- What is the male / female split
- What age groups are represented
- What are my expectations
- Why have the people chosen to be at this event
I do a LOT of background research. I don’t have a canned speech that I just deliver on every stage regardless of who is in the room. I curate the talk for that specific audience. While I have been very fortunate to not have struggled with the situation where I lose the attention of the audience nor have I had a massive blunder onstage where things fell apart, I have seen other speakers bomb.
At some point in your speaking career something is not going to go as planned. You might completely bomb or you might just notice your audience becomes more engaged with their phones than you on stage. This can certainly happen to you and my advice would be to bring your focus back to why you are there.
Sometimes the methodology is the thing that’s not working. You might have terribly boring slides and you realize that you have killed the energy in the room. In which case, get rid of the slides and stick to why you’re there. If you’ve got a message to share you don’t need to do it with slides. Alternatively it might be the set up. Maybe the stage is too far and too high that it creates this incredible distance between you and the audience. In which case, grab the microphone, jump off stage, stand in the middle of the audience, make direct eye contact and talk to people. Talk with people. Or maybe you’ve been talking for too long and that’s why you’ve lost the audience and so you need to do a little bit of engagement. In that case stop your monologue and do something like a body build. A body build is where you tell people to stand or raise their hand if they agree with a statement that you’ve made. This activity gets people interacting with your talk rather than sitting passively while you speak at length on a topic. Or maybe you get a mic into the audience and get some of their feedback.
The point is, if something is not working you’ve got to change it. But don’t change why you’re there. Keep your focus on your WHY and just find a different methodology.
These are just a few things you can do spontaneously in the moment without any prep. If you have a firm handle on why you are there on stage and you are ready to give your all to communicate that why, you will be able to improvise in the moment to reverse engineer any distractions that may get in the way of you communicating that message to your audience.
Here is an inspirational video with 4 more tips to Engage your audience
In the comments let me know some of the successful strategies that you have used to re-engage your audience.
Dan Ram ignites the stage as an in-person event and virtual event MC/ Moderator & Speaker at over 100 events a year. He has shared the stage with international luminaries including President Barack Obama, Sir Richard Branson, Reid Hoffman, Nico Rosberg, and Grammy-winning artists and celebrities. He has also been recognized as a Top 40 under 40 leader 2020 as well as a Top 100 Yale Alumni in Technology 2021. Level up your communication skills through his course and mastermind “Speaking Success”. His passion is to inspire people with his motto ‘Start Now Start Simple’ in building a future we all want to live in.