Public speaking 101: Three ways to capture your audience’s attention

Raina DeBrouwer

We live in an era where instant information is at an all-time high and attention spans are at an all-time low.  No innovation in communication has been a match for the short attention span of today’s audience. If anything, technology has only added to the problem.

In this age of convenience, how can public relations practitioners deliver engaging speeches that effectively communicate their messages? Here are some tips I’ve picked up from school, work and volunteer experiences for captivating the disengaged.

Use anecdotes

While facts and figures are important tools used to boost a speaker’s credibility, stories are what people relate to. Us humans are suckers for a good story. Whether it is a tragedy, a triumph, a new epiphany or an old legend, we like to hear about the lives of others and relate them to our own.  

Personalize your speech by telling a story that compliments your message. At the end of the day, the audience won’t remember the numbers that you spouted off but they will remember how your story made them feel.

Less is more

We’ve all been there – not-so-patiently sitting at a wedding reception, listening to the 20th speech of the night and overusing the open bar just to cope with the boredom. Even the world’s best-written speech can have people squirming in their seats and staring at the clock if it’s running longer than necessary.

Your goal should be to end your speech leaving people wanting more. Remember, intrigue can lead to action. Maybe they’ll check out your website afterwards, or they’ll come ask you for more information. If you speak for too long? Even previously engaged audience members will start to associate your speech with boredom rather than remembering your message.

Get excited!

My public speaking professor at Humber College worked in student recruitment and spent his fair share of time in front of large audiences. The most memorable advice he offered my class? Get excited! If you frame a task as scary or difficult in your mind, it will be. If you alter your mentality to make that task exciting? It will be!

As PR students, we all know that uncomfortable feeling of second-hand embarrassment as someone stumbles through a presentation. It’s so important to feel confident while giving a speech. By radiating confidence, you will put your audience at ease. So, get excited by repositioning speeches as exciting opportunities in your mind. Your audience will respond to the confidence!

Giving a speech is a nerve-racking experience for most. While you may never get over this fear, there are steps you can take to help you deliver memorable speeches that capture your audience’s attention. I’ve found the tips above to be effective and hope they can be of value to you. What do you do to help you rock a speech?