It’s no secret that most people have a difficult time with the idea of speaking in front of large audiences. But what is less often thought of is that even those who are comfortable with public speaking likely have a difficult time commanding the attention of their peers, especially if they’re speaking to a larger audience.
So, when it comes to that big business meeting you’re speaking at, how can you be sure your audience will be engaged with you and focused on what you’re telling them instead of idly standing by? Make what you say first and last memorable
It’s often used as a studying strategy, that is, studying for shorter periods of time more frequently. This is because the human brain remembers what is said or done at the beginning and end of a sequence better than what is done in the middle of that sequence. That’s why TV commercials often begin with a loud sound or a funny image and end with their branded logo.
So, how does this translate into helping you with your meeting? Well, barring any late walk-ins to the meeting, making the beginning and ending to your speech creative or fun is one way you can get your audience to remember you and what you were talking about.
One option is to start with something that people aren’t accustomed to like a creative ice breaker. Before anything else is said in the meeting, ask a general question. An example for a morning meeting where attendees may be groggy and tired is: “In one word, what is your morning?”. This is a short, creative question that doesn’t require much brain power for your audience to muster, and you can display their results in a unique way such as this word cloud:
Personally, I have found that concluding your speeches and meetings is a bit trickier. If you’re speaking about something that is personal to you, make sure you close it with something meaningful or emotional. This way your audience will be more inclined to listen even if it has nothing to do with themselves. If you’re speaking at an annual business conference, maybe focus on a motivational vision or idea that you have to end your speech strongly. Whatever you choose to do, do not leave any loose ends hanging. Cliffhangers are great for books and movies but detrimental to public speaking. Cliffhangers won’t make your audience want to hear more from you but will instead irritate them because your speech ended anticlimactically. Make the meeting into an event
Don’t just have your audience sitting there listening while you say what needs to be said. This is how people start day dreaming and letting their mind wander elsewhere. Make your meeting into a discussion by using a web application that streams your audience’s live answers onto a screen. Websites like Peardeck (all you need is a Gmail account to sign in) allow admins to ask questions and then display their users’ answers live on the screen, creating a discussion or competition for their audience. By doing this, it is much more difficult for the audience’s attention to wander and much easier to see exactly who is paying attention and actively involved. Use multiple choice questions and polls
Let your audience test their knowledge of the company or whatever subject you’re speaking about by asking questions with definitive answers. By asking a series of questions, you can hammer home key points (like the actual reason sales are up) and your individual audience members can have a competition between each other to see who can answer the most questions correctly.
By polling your audience, you can ask key questions about almost anything without receiving an awkward silence from the crowd. Often speakers ask for a single answer and receive crickets in response for one of four reasons: 1) the audience isn’t sure if it was a rhetorical question, 2) the audience believes the speaker wants them to all to agree on a single, unified answer, 3) no one in the audience wants to offer up their own answer for risk of being wrong in front of countless people, or 4) the audience is just plainly not paying attention. Polling the audience as a whole negates all of these potential problems for the speaker and keeps the meeting light and efficient.
Whatever you decide to do to spice up your next business meeting, conference, or big toast at a party, remember to make it engaging, use pictures and graphics if the topic calls for it, and make it stand out from those in the past. Use some of the ideas above or come up with your own ways to form a more productive meeting or a more encapsulating speech. Just remember that you don’t need to make it the greatest speech ever spoken or the best meeting ever planned; just make it memorable and give it an attention-grabbing beginning and a strong closing!
Ideas for this blog were inspired by: http://www.polleverywhere.com/blog/all-hands-meeting-ideas/
Picture credit: http://cdn2.hubspot.net/hubfs/53/00-Blog_Thinkstock_Images/Science_Backed_Tips_for_Public_Speaking.jpg