It is easy to lose your audience, but it can also be easy to engage them if you know the tricks. Here are five fool-proof ways to do it.
1. Understand the audience
When a business plans to expand in another place, they try to get to know their prospective market and stakeholders that matter. When an account executive tries to close a deal with a client, he researches on his preferences, disposition and soft spots to get his attention, sympathy and subsequently, approval.
The same is true for a keynote speaker. One has to understand the culture, type of language used and the interests of his audience to ensure that he gets and retains their attention and approval.
Maybe the audience has a specific spot for sentimentality with regard to a specific subject that might work on your favor, like when giving a keynote presentation in a calamity-prone area.
Maybe the community you are speaking with has a level of sensitivity that when touched can infuriate them, like when delivering a speech with a community that experienced great losses in the past.
You have to understand your audience’s soft and sensitive spots, so that you can know what to touch and what to avoid.
2. Encourage a dialogue, not a monologue
You will definitely not be alone in the venue, so make sure that you address your audience by encouraging dialogue and interaction. “What for, they cannot answer back clearly anyway?” you might ask.
It does not matter. For them, a simple nod, quick response or laughter will pass as an interaction because they recognize your desire to include them in your speech.
With a keynote speaker, audience participation does not refer to a healthy repartee. You can simply ask them and prompt them to respond with a yes, no or laughter. Ask them to interrupt you if you think they can offer you an argument that you can use to expound your message. Let them write down notes about some important points for later reference (just not too much; otherwise, you will sound like Oprah Winfrey).
3. Involve them emotionally
Smile with them, laugh with them. Let them feel happiness, sadness, anger or regret through your anecdotes. Involving them emotionally is the best way to involve them mentally and physically, making your speech more memorable.
Formal studies have proven that emotional connection increases memory and empathy. This is very helpful if your keynote presentation is more about technical matters that not everyone in the audience can relate to.
Nowadays, there are a lot more ways to emotionally involve the audience other than by telling funny or heartwarming stories. Why not find a funny YouTube video and share it with your audience? Afterwards, you can ask for their reaction. Online meme is also a trend in lightening up the mood since they make a point with a touch of humor.
4. Use drama in your voice
Movies have musical score to adjust the mood according to expectation. Unfortunately, as a keynote speaker, you do not have that kind of technical support, so you only have your voice to play with.
Speak softly on non-serious parts of your speech. Shift to a louder, higher tone to emphasize importance. Whisper if you have to elicit emotional response and use the power of silence to create impact. You can be playful with your voice to avoid monotony that breeds boredom and inattentiveness.
Notice how standup comedians change their inflection all the time. They vary their tone, pitch and volume as they deliver the punch line.
5. Meet the audience after your speech
Politicians know this trick vey well. They go down the stage to shake hands and meet the audience face to face. This is a great way for them to become memorable. As a keynote speaker, doing this will also shorten the distance between an authority and expert like you, and ordinary audience like them.