How to Earn Your Audience’s Attention

It’s rehearsal #2. Amy is holding a thick stack of index cards containing her speech for a local TedX talk. By the time she’s flipped through her cards and progressed through numerous slides, my brain feels like a bingo number being tossed and turned in a spinning bingo canister.I’m overwhelmed. I’m confused. I’m unmoved. And, even though – I’m not feeling it – I sense a gem tucked inside and potential for a phenomenal speech.

Her problem?
Information overabundance, slides with multiple graphics, unfamiliar vocabulary and confusing data are all vying to simultaneously compute in my head. Amy is not unlike many of the 10 speakers. All strongly believe if they extract any information, the audience won’t understand.

Is “understanding” your goal?
If you think sharing information is the driving factor in sparking enthusiasm and motivating change for your audience, think again.

No one would light a cigarette and we’d all be exercising 30 minutes a day and eating 5 servings of vegetables if information changed minds. Don’t get me wrong …information is not the enemy. It’s resourceful, rich and necessary. But if you’ve loaded your keynote down with dense content, you’re missing the point.

What IS your goal?
As a keynote speaker – your goal isn’t to teach for understanding. Instead, it’s to ignite curiosity so your audience listens, and to be compelling so they feel a stir of excitement. It is also to help your audience believe change is possible – their own change or change for the world. You are transforming people. You are selling dreams.

True change happens, when we believe change is possible. To ignite that internal belief, a speaker must tap into the audience’s emotional charge.

“People are empowered not by that which they know is true, but, rather that which they believe is possible.”  ~ Neil Gordon

Where Information Belongs
Dreams do need tangible data. Dreams do require clearly stated action steps. Dreams do insist on experience transformed to information. You’ll need to calculate the balance between igniting, compelling and visioning with concrete and grounded information.

Talk About Igniting!!!
Four-hundred people sat silently and attentively as Amy opened with a personal, emotional and poignant story. Once she finished her story, she’d earned our full attention, our trust, and our curiosity. After the story, she asked the audience rhetorical questions that continued to lead us into the heart of her content. It was only then, that she offered information to support, clarify, and give examples of her main points. The information added credibility to her vision. Amy received a standing ovation.

Harness. Anchor. Inspire.
Your call to action as a speaker is to harness your convictions, your motivations, your purpose and strong belief in your message. Insert that language and energy to inspire your audience to channel their desire to act. Anchor that message in relevant information. Make yourself accessible and personal and you’ll see your audience rising from their seats to give you a rousing standing ovation.