How to Engage an Audience of Any Size

How to Engage an Audience of Any Size

Would you enjoy speaking in front of an audience?

The majority of people would rather spend their entire lives keeping quiet than stand in front of a group and express themselves.

For some, telling a story to even a small group of strangers can raise anxiety to unbearable levels.

So how do you speak to an audience, no matter the size, and keep your composure?

The keys to this skill simple and easy to learn.

Of course, there are many skills to learn to become a confident and effective Public Speaker, but the journey starts with being able to stand and speak in front of people.

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Know Your Audience

Imagine talking to a person you don’t know.

You talk about all the things you like; did over the weekend; and want to do in the future, but you have no idea if the person is interested in what you have to say, or if they’re even listening.

Wouldn’t it be worth asking a few questions to open a dialogue between the two of you, so you’re sure that what you’re saying has value to them?

When you engage an audience as a Public Speaker, it can be easy to just talk and talk about the things that interest you and what you want from the audience:

“I’d like to tell you about something I learned”.

“I want to ask for your help”.

“Such a funny thing happened to me today”.

Personal stories are a great way to get your audience to relate to you, but if your audience isn’t interested in what you have to say, you’ll lose their attention and their interest. Lose both of these and you’ll have trouble getting them to take action on what you’ve said, which is the key goal of any public address or presentation: the call to action, more on that later.

So, your first secret ingredient for audience engagement is knowing them and tailoring your speech to them.

How do you get to know an audience and tell them what they want to hear? I’ll give you a hint.

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Focus your Speech on the Audience


                                    Focus entirely on the audience


Benjamin Disraeli, the former Prime Minister of the U.K. once said:

“Talk to a man about himself, and he will listen for hours”.

That’s’ it. The second secret ingredient of audience engagement: audiences want to hear about themselves. You simply keep your audience’s attention by taking about them: their health, their chances of surviving a holocaust, how your speech can help them to save for their next holiday.

If you speak to your audience about their most favorite subject, themselves, you will win hearts and minds to your cause.

You can also do what Russell Conwell, the American Baptist Minister (1843 – 1925), would do when he spoke before an unfamiliar audience: he would first go and visit the community to which he would deliver his Acres of Diamonds speech, and then tailor it to their reality. If times were hard, he would make mention of their plight. If they had just had a recent election, he would mention their new Mayor’s name and perhaps congratulate them on their success.

But, I hear you screaming: “All audience members aren’t the same!”. I agree entirely, which is why there’s a third and final secret ingredient to engaging an audience of any size.

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Speak to the Individual

Writers, often use a technique to make their prose more powerful, and it involves writing for a single reader.

Rather than trying to achieve a broad appeal, they hone in on the values, and desires of a single person, usually someone they know well, to make their writing more personal.

While you might believe that speaking to a live audience is different to writing a book to one person in solitude, think about it like this: an audience, no matter how large or small is actually just a collection of individuals. You don’t have to make everyone laugh at once, understand at once, or connect to your message at the same time. You can, however, connect with every single person in your audience by speaking to them as individuals.

If you can make eye contact, pause, and deliver a message completely to one particular audience member, you can win their support. If you can make one person laugh with a story you tell that they can relate to, their laughter can infect others.

Start Small and Build

                                                      Hmm dinner. Now, where do I start?

If the thought of addressing an audience of 10, 30, or 100 people frightens you, fear not. We all feel that way when we start out in Public Speaking. We all think that an audience is ‘too big’ until we deal with it, and then it seems like a small audience compared to our next opportunity. The way to push through this is by starting small and building up later. You can easily engage an audience of any size if you do what the U.S. Army General Creighton Abrams once said:

“When eating an elephant take one bite at a time”.

To take your first bite, come and join a Project Charisma Public Speaking Course. You’ll be speaking in front of an audience on your first session with full support from all of our coaches.

Danny Riley, a co-founder of Project Charisma, is a Public Speaking Coach with a proven track record for helping introverts to overcome their anxieties and find their unique voice. He delivers workshops on Stage Presence, Speech Writing, and Speaking Skills.

Book Your Place on the next Project Charisma Public Speaking Course Now


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