TEDx has given us a powerful platform to share ideas, foster connections, and inspire action. If you are preparing to give your first TEDx talk and want to keep your audience engaged then you know that the first minute of your talk is the most crucial.
Your challenge when you walk onstage is to grab everyone’s attention in the least amount of time. So the BIG question is, how do you do that?
Hosting some of the world’s biggest events I’ve had to think on my toes about how to engage different types of audiences. Today I want to share with you 5 strategies to help you captivate your TEDx audience in 30 seconds or less!
While it might seem obvious, one of the fastest ways to capture anyone’s attention is by being original. Being different doesn’t take hours of brainstorming, but it does take the ability to spot trends and then separate yourself from the rest of the pack. If you can figure out how to contrast your style from other speakers you have heard, you will immediately demand attention.
For example, if every other speaker introduces themselves with their name and job title, steer away from that approach and instead share your passion or hobbies. If most people introduce themselves with a rhetorical question, such as “imagine a world..” don’t do that but instead open with a different method. Start building a list of openers you can pick from to begin your TEDx talk. Having more options at your fingertips will give you the advantage of being able to be flexible on stage.
You can choose to be original in any number of categories including how you dress or how you use your voice. You can sometimes draw people in by what you DON’T say. There have been many times I’ve paid the most attention to a speaker when they talk a lot slower, using words in a more measured way, and building added suspense by including a number of pauses.
Getting your audience engaged is all about being different. You will achieve this originality by listening to a handful of the best TEDx talks and then identifying those things that make you stand out from everyone else.
When we get on stage we are ultimately expecting to ignite certain emotions in the audience. While originality might activate attention, curiosity will keep that attention.
Curiosity can be sparked in a number of ways including playing little mind games with the audience such as including an unanswered question, or laying out a scenario that doesn’t have a clear end. If you use these techniques effectively you’ll have your audience hooked, waiting with bated breath for you to resolve the scenario.
“Did you know” statements also are effective tools that can serve as a fascinating lead-in statement at the beginning of your talk. Questions that are both informative while leaving room for mystery build the kind of intrigue that puts the audience’s attention in the palm of your hand.
I want you to know that having a polar opposite position to the status quo is an attention grabber.
When I use the word Animosity I don’t intend for you to make enemies but I want you to be comfortable having a contrarian approach. When this approach is used well be sure that anyone who has been passively listening up to this point will immediately pay attention to what YOU have to say.
One of the best ways to have this contrarian approach is by spending time exploring the nuances of what you believe. If you can discover positive ways that your perspective can give your audience a refreshing approach to a topic, you will keep their attention for the remainder of your talk.
Sharing a story that is both relevant and relatable is the key to building empathy with your audiences. When preparing your talk, spend time thinking about what stories you can include that will resonate with the hearts and minds of your audience. Relatable stories are those that are told with refreshing honesty and transparency. The more relatable your story is, the more you will find the entire audience nodding with you in agreement.
People connect with energy; it’s one of the key factors that can make or break your immediate connection with your audience. The good news is that every speaker can choose what type of vibe they want the room to embrace. If you are a chill Zen person you can expect the audience to match your energy level. If you are a high energy always smiling kind of person, you can expect your audience to have a similar response to you.
One of the ways to hook an audience is to be intentional about the energy you transmit. A lot of speakers think that it’s the audiences’ energy that feeds them, but the best speakers know that it is THEIR own energy that feeds the audience.
Being proactive about the energy you emit is your superpower to give the room the ambiance you desire. Your communication style also contributes to the energy you convey. Take the time to consider how you communicate with your hands, eyes, and other facial expressions because if you can harness the power of these expressions you can make your audience think ‘That person is fascinating….I need to keep watching.’
The Ball is in YOUR court
Now that you have these 5 basic strategies to engage your audience the ball is now in your court to combine them in effective ways.
Here’s an exercise you can use to pull this all together. Get a pen and paper and answer the following questions.
- The most original things about yourself
- The most contrarian views that you have
- The most curious things about yourself
- The most relatable things about yourself
The next step is to find ways to communicate your answers through engaging stories. When you’ve decided on the best stories that convey your central themes you now need to practice. Practice your opening story more than you think you need to so that it comes across with ease and you can deliver it even if you struggle with nerves. This exercise will set you up for creating a TEDx script that will keep your audience on the edge of their seat.
I Survived a LION Attack
When I’m onstage one of the ways I begin my talks is with a story that combines both originality and curiosity. I often start with
“I was only 16 when I stared death in the face”
Not a lot of people start with a near death experience so that’s the Originality part of it..and curiosity…WHAT was I staring in the face that was about to kill me is the curiosity piece. So now I’ve got my audience hooked, needing me to resolve the story.
I ended up facing a wild lion when I was living in Zimbabwe and then of course proceeded to fight it with my bare hands, kill it ,and then ate it for dinner. Ok, that’s not how that story ends. But I did face a wild lion. That was my experience. It’s original and has a little bit of curiosity.
Well told stories build empathy. Empathy is also the route that can best bring attention to the problem you are solving while showing your solution is relevant to your listeners!
These are 5 tools you can now use to grab your audience’s and keep them spellbound during your TEDx talk. While these are the strategies I use, your deepest learning outcomes won’t come from me giving you more examples but from you brainstorming ways these apply to you.
Keeping your audience engaged during your TEDx talk is a skill that can be acquired through practicing proven strategies. Improving your ability to combine these strategies is only important because you have a message the world needs to hear.
If you could benefit from direct help getting ready to speak at TEDx – My team and I are here to help you!
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. He has dedicated 2023 to providing resources and coaching 500 international dreamers who are dedicated to launching new initiatives. His passion is to inspire people with his motto ‘Start Now Start Simple’ in building a future we all want to live in. If you you are launching something new this year join #The500Club to receive resources and coaching from Dan!