Welcome back to our five-part series on how to write a speech!
Can you believe that we’re almost to the end of our speechwriting journey. Just two letters left! This article covers the “E” of our POWER method, Audience Engagement. In this blog we’ll be focusing on how to engage with your audience. We’ll be sharing tips like, buy a t-shirt gun and give out free swag to bribe your audience into loving you! Just kidding, we’ll be harnessing the power of audience engagement through things like the “20-minute rule”, Emotionally Competent Stimulus, and we’ll touch on a couple of the top 10 techniques for audience engagement as well.
With a variety of audience engagement techniques available, you’ll want to come up with a plan on which technique to use.
We’ve already covered that “winging it” doesn’t work when you’re presenting a speech. It’s crucial that you plan ahead and choose a technique that fits your objective and the allotted time for your presentation.
Audience participation encompasses a broad range of activities from a simple show of hands, to requests for personal input, role-playing, and games. Each of these techniques has its merits. So before asking for audience participation, think about the types of responses you’d like to get.
With so many techniques to choose from it may feel overwhelming, don’t worry if writing isn’t your cup of tea, we can always help you with our individualized speechwriting services too. But for today, we’ll break down some of our top techniques for audience engagement for both speechwriting and presenting purposes. These tips can also be peppered into your everyday conversations in order to engage more effectively while you’re in the office, presenting to clients, or just chopping it up with friends and family.
We’ll get back to the E shortly, but let’s recap the POWER method for writing a speech or presentation.
Write with Power – The Power Method
The term POWER is an acronym for presentation writing and over the course of this series we will dive deep into each letter:
- P – Purpose – How to write with purpose. No one has ever heard a speech and said, “that was great, but what was the speaker’s point?”
- O – Organize – We will teach you how to organize your thoughts and how to write the outline to a speech.
- W – Writing – Writing tips and techniques are the best tools at the disposal of any good presenter. We will cover how to harness the power of the pen.
- E – Engage – Engaging your audience is of the utmost importance, if your audience is not engaged in your words and delivery, it’s going to be an uphill battle.
- R – Revise – Even Michael Jordan wasn’t good at basketball to begin with. He was cut from his high school team. As much as it is painful, we learn our best life lessons when we are challenged. No one starts out on top, the greats are the ones who stick around until the end. It’s been hypothesized that it takes GRIT and roughly 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill.
Now that we’ve had a refresher on the POWER method, let’s get into the “E” of the process.
How to Plan Audience Engagement
You want audience input to be meaningful and to help you make a point. Be clear about your purpose and consider how audience engagement techniques will help build your case. Most importantly, think about what you’ll say if you don’t get the responses you expect. Better to be prepared for the rogue audience member that is a contrarian and looking to debate anything and will take any stance in order to disagree with you. Anticipation is key in all things, speechwriting is no exception.
Audience participation should add value to your talk. So keep in mind that if the participation could cause confusion, too much stimuli, or a loss of control over the room, you’re heading down the wrong path.
It’s important to plan where in your speech you’ll be using audience engagement too. Pace and rhythm in our talk creates energy, so you’ll want to divide your talk in a way that gives it a steady rhythm and energy. This can be accomplished through various audience engagement techniques.
Variety is the spice of life and most of us are fans of the buffet of life, no one wants to eat the same boring dish course after course. It might have been delicious as the appetizer, but when you’re presented with a larger portion of the same meal for the main course, and then dessert as well, you’ll likely have lost your appetite somewhere between courses one and two. Your speech should be thought of in the same manner. Include variety for every new point that you make in your presentation or some kind of new audience engagement technique for every new point.
Writing for the Average Attention Span
While we may think we’re highly focused individuals, studies have shown that we are more or less squirrel-like with our ability to concentrate. A shiny object can pull our attention away from just about anything if we’ve been given enough time to let our minds wander into the great abyss.
People have an attention span of about ten minutes. After ten minutes attention spans take a nose-dive. Our species have evolved over time and studies have shown that our genes are fundamentally opposed to sitting through a lecture. There’s more info on this topic in our eBook, below.
So here is where the “10-minute rule” comes into play. Make sure that every ten minutes you’re doing something different to keep people engaged. And what kind of something different should you be incorporating to keep engagement levels high? Great question!
Scientists recommend Emotionally Competent Stimulus (ECS). Huh?
This is lecture gold that you’re weaving throughout your presentation. That’s right, there’s gold in them there lectures! To keep your audience engaged, weave something shiny into the presentation. If every ten minutes they realize they could potentially be called upon to give their feedback, asked a question about the previous point, or asked to role-play with another audience member, you can bet your bottom dollar that they’ll want to make sure they can intelligently interact when called upon. No one wants to be the kid in the classroom admitting that they were zoning out and have to ask that the question be repeated or how to do something that was already explained in detail. That’s the stuff of recurring nightmares for many of us!
So back to ECS, this is stimulus that gives your brain a break from the presentation and connects to one of the main points. Every ten minutes in your presentation, you’ll want to incorporate some of that sweet ECS gold into your talk to keep eyes wide and ears perked.
Top Ten Techniques for Audience Engagement
Yowzers, that’s a lot of techniques! Because we’ve got so many goodies in our bag of tricks, we’ll only touch on one today, the rest are available in this worksheet or in our eBook.
Ask effective questions. This means using what we call inclusive framing by asking effective questions of an audience during a presentation. Ask your questions in a way that most audience members would be able to respond to. Inclusive questions are great for building a shared identity around a crowd. You don’t want to put people on the spot with the way you ask questions. Instead, you want to make your audience feel valued, competent, and like they’re contributing to the conversation.
One example is asking, “tell me about your most recent shopping experience.” This is something that everybody can respond to. You want to try to avoid superlative phrasing or a prompt like, “tell us about the best meal you’ve ever had.” That might be harder to answer and leave your audience thinking for a long time when you want them answering. Instead, you could say something like, “tell us about a good meal that you’ve had.” This is much easier for your audience to answer and it will make them feel like they’re contributing to the conversation. You want to focus on the benefits to the audience, asking them to confirm the benefits that are important to them. Your questions can be rhetorical, but it’s much more effective to ask a question that elicits a response from the audience.
For more information on how to engage with your audience by asking questions, the full list of the top ten techniques for audience engagement, information on speechwriting services, and to learn more about how the Moxie Institute can enhance your presentations, speechwriting, and your life, contact us today or for the DIY'ers check out our 10 chapter, 35 lesson, & 40+ worksheet online courses.
In our next blog we’ll be in the home stretch and covering the “R” of the POWER method. The “R” stands for Revise. When you’ve completed your speech, you’ll want to revise, revise, revise. We’ll provide you with tips on words and phrases to avoid and some valuable advice from a TEDx speaker coach to help you refine your message.