Creative LeadershipStrategy & Marketing

Speakers: Are You Captivating or Boring Your Audience?

When I sit in conferences, workshops, or church services, I watch the audience as much as I watch the speaker. With a powerful and compelling speaker, the audience is riveted. They take notes, nod their heads in agreement, and all eyes are glued to the stage. But with a poor speaker, the audience wanders. They start pulling out mobile devices – not to make notes, but to check their email. They start whispering to their neighbor. They don’t nod their heads in agreement, they nod off to sleep.

The problem is, bad speakers never notice.  They go right on with their boring speech and never see that the audience has mentally left the room.

Never be so arrogant as a speaker to think that the importance of your message outweighs the audience’s interest. Those speakers plod along never giving a thought to just how excruciatingly painful it is for the audience. As a speaker, it’s your job to engage them, and if they’re not interested, something is wrong.

One opera singer said it well: “Be sure and stop singing before the audience has stopped listening.”

How you deliver a message is just as important as the message you deliver. Because ultimately, no matter how great that message may be, if no one’s paying attention, you’ve failed.

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  1. Thanks for the encouragement to keep audiences fully engaged. When you see one of these tells, what do you like to do to grab the attention back?

    1. I think one of the keys is physical technique. If you’re not being dramatic and using the stage physically, then you might as well just print your message and hand it out. Engage them. Be a great storyteller!

  2. I saw Phil speak this morning, and I was floored. An amazing speaker with a powerful message. The highlight of my last three days.

  3. I think I have listened to 2-3,000 talks, maybe more. I think I cannot remember any of them! You’ve probably guessed I’m not an aural learner. This is one reason why schools are such a poor place for educating people. Stories. Visual stories. Now those I remember. In the old days of video tape I could remember the complete sequencing of shots I’d directed. I give talks and it always frightens me to do so – people are complementary, but I know what it’s like for me in an audience. I fall asleep!

  4. I can’t be too bad, I preached somewhere about 18 years ago, and someone not only remembered that I preached, but what I preached on. I can also remember some sermons I have heard going back for the 23 years I have been a Christian, though not that many. I think part of the problem is many Christian speakers do not know how to read their audiences, which I have always been able to do naturally, but it is a skill that can be learnt. You should never play an audience to make up for lack of substance (though sadly there are some Christians who do this), but you need to be able to read them so you know if you are connecting with them or not. It can also help you to know if you need to shorten or lengthen a section depending on how it is being received. Not working off fully typed out notes can help, as it is easier to adapt things as you go, as every audience is different1

  5. True, Phil. As a speaker, if you should have such a good connection with your audience that you can tell when you’re losing them. That’s when having some improv training will come in handy. Being able to be in the moment and adjust to what the audience is telling you.

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