How do you own a room? Not by buying it of course!
Engaging the audience and holding their attention through every twist and turn of your speech may be difficult but not impossible.
Audience engagement and “owning the room” is a way we take our speech to the next level by making sure the audience is invested and engaged throughout the speech.
People often fail to bring in excitement when they speak on a particular topic, leaving the crowd unimpressed and nodding off. Through experience and research I bring to you 5 easy ways you can exactly that!
5 Ways To Own The Room
While preparation might not be as active a part when getting your audience hooked to your speech, it plays a major role.
Just like the backstage crew is the backbone of any event, paying attention to these following tiny details will give you a strong spine to build your speech on.
Even if it is No-Shave November or just your choice. Grooming yourself properly doesn’t mean that you show up with a full face of make-up on and clean shaven.
You can be yourself, it is important to be comfortable in your own skin, especially when you will be speaking in front of a big crowd!
Grooming means making yourself look presentable while being comfortable.
Now this means that as long as you look clean and fresh and neat, it doesn’t matter what you look like. We aren’t going to make all of you stand in line and check if your nails are trimmed short!
Moving above the superficial requirements of looks and attractiveness, people generally would want to listen to you if you look prepared and ready.
Grooming and taking care of yourself is also known to boost confidence that who doesn’t want such an easy pass at confidence?
A bright morning in the park v. a dingy classroom. What is your preference?
Most people are inclined to choose the park, because it brings freshness and life. Usually this is not in the control of the presenter.
Here is what you can do:
1. Well, if you don’t have the power of the Awesome Location God with you, you can always make sure to have enough lighting in the room, if the walls are dull, you could add more white (they reflect light) or warm colours which will help liven up the room. It could be done with decorations, posters or curtains.
Usually when the spotlight is just on the speaker the audience tends to feel “in the dark” – literally and figuratively. They tend to relax and assume that no one is really watching them. Which is a bad idea if you want them gripped by your words.
2. It may also help if you wear colours that contrast well with the room. Clothes affect your speech? Definitely!
The audience, being human, is going to zone out or get distracted. You can use the clothes you wear to help them focus again.
It would be more difficult for them to find you if you are blending in with the background!
A good choice of clothes would be ones that give a complementing contrast to the room and at the same time are comfortable enough for you to move around in.
Of course, sometimes a particular event may require a specific dress code. Remember to adhere to all the rules laid out by the organisation to avoid any scuffle at the last minutes.
If you aren’t comfortable with any of them, you can always talk about it and maybe meet each other half way!
We will say it 10 times and say it again a 1000 times more!
Practicing your speech will go a long way for any speaker. It helps you find the flow in your speech and gives you a chance to pace yourself, find the right times to take a pause, to speed up, and to overall know your speech like the back of your hand.
1.3.1. Benefits of Practising your Speech
- Clarity in your voice and with words
- Well structured speech
- Timed pauses and modulations
- Adequate pacing and speed of speech
- Effective delivery.
And so much more!
1.4. Audience Research
What would make someone listen to you? The easiest way to get someone to listen, pay attention and invest their time in you is to connect with them.
Don’t forget that you are the only active participant during your speech, you need to keep up the audience’s interest and at the same time deliver your speech. Without expecting any form of contribution from their end.
Learning what your audience likes / is interested in would be a great way to connect with them and find common ground.
It is important to do your research right. Once you know what your audience would connect with, you can add examples, jokes or even anecdotes in your speech to help them relate and connect with your speech better.
If you are comfortable and your audience is more or less homogenous you can even try to incorporate the language they use without being disrespectful or ignorant about anyone or thing.
Understanding and analysing your audience can go a long way for you when preparing for or delivering your speech. Check out our video to figure out how to analyse your audience.
Another easy way which is in your control is your content and how you deliver it, lets check out how we can master them!
Content of your speech is what you add to it in writing, the essence of your speech which helps guide you through your delivery.
Structuring your speech gives you a smooth and seamless flow and makes it easier for the audience to follow you.
While practicing, you may notice that one thing does not add up to the next topic, this may be because you don’t have a sound structure.
Just like how a foundation is the outline to your dream home, a structure proves as an outline to your whole speech. To learn more about how to structure your speech, check out the article we’ve written on the same!: 3 Ways to Structure A Speech The Professional Way
No. I do not mean the wave, the droplet or any other transition that you use in a presentation!
Transition is the technique of maintaining a smooth and seamless flow in your speech while moving from one topic to another.
The easiest way to do this is to connect your previous point to the next one.
1. Without Transition
…and that is how we dissect a frog.
My friend who is in the room, they are a surgeon but they always used to faint in science lab whenever we dissected anything! Moving on, I will teach you how to ensure safety and hygiene…
Here the speaker tried to use a personal anecdote / joke as a transition however, it didn’t fit well with the flow of the speech. Let’s try it a different way:
2. With Transition…and that is how we dissect a frog!
Now I hope none of you fainted here like a friend of mine, who ironically is a surgeon now and to their bad luck are in this very room!
But all jokes aside, I’ll admit, they prepped better than I did, (maybe because they knew they were going to hit the floor as soon as the specimen came out!)
Whatever be your reason, safety and hygiene is very important so lets learn how to do it right…
In this example, notice how the pattern isn’t topic – joke – topic but each segment is fused with each other and that simple difference makes the speech more seamless and smooth.
It helps your audience get a break between topics while you are still holding their attention.
A boring topic doesn’t exist because what might be unamusing to A might be the most profound piece of information in existence to B. The key here is to find your interest in the topics you present and project that interest to the audience when you deliver.
Once you know what your are going to speak about and you genuinely are interested in your topic and have spent time researching your content, it is easy to convince the audience that the topic is interesting.
As soon as you begin, the way you speak will give away the fact that you are confident about your facts, have well researched points and thoughts and that makes you a reliable source to listen to.
That would tell the audience that you know what you are talking about and that listening to you would benefit them! Therefore, room owned!
A content perfectly curated and written is not the only thing that goes into a killer speech. Your delivery needs to justify the amazing content you’ve written and we’re going to help you find the right tools to get the audience hooked!
3.1. Visual Aid
Have you ever experienced VR – Virtual Reality?
The sheer effect a sound or video can make is both astounding and exploitable.
Screening pictures or a presentation or simple easy-to-read charts will not only make it easier for the audience to follow you but also help you keep their attention and interest.
Your presentation needs to be formal, yet fun, simple, yet colorful and there might be many other conditions set for an effective presentation, we are not here to remind you of that nightmare, we’re here to help. 🙂
A crash course on presentations:
1. Mention only points (one sentence is the limit) and remember that they are there for your reference.
2. Transitions are nice when they are simple, quick and seamless, but transition sounds are a big no no.
3. Practice and review your content with the presentation.
If you want to learn more about presentations, you can check out our article: A Guide To The Techniques Of Presentation
Even though the whole point of this article is to talk about how to keep your audience engaged and happy and give a killer speech with a solid “mic – drop worthy” exit, there are a few things which would be a cherry on top to your already amazing speech.
Ask questions! This is a foolproof method to keep your audience on their toes and alert.
Now this doesn’t mean to recap or ask them if they were listening, but instead, a simple “with me so far?” works in small crowds. Remember to wait for their response, viz., vocal affirmations or gestures.
This shows the audience that you are interested in delivering your speech for their benefit and not just for the sake of giving a speech. It builds trust and you gain points for caring about your audience!
3.2.2. Voice Modulation and Tonality
Even if you don’t find opportunities to ask questions, changing the tone of your voice helps keep the audience focused.
Simple, monotonous tunes and sounds tend to make us drowsy no matter if the topic is about rocket science or the latest gossip about your recent ship. Changing your voice according to what you feel about that particular segment will go a long way.
This exercise will help you understand how stressing on a word changes the meaning of the sentence and will help you ensure you are sending out the right message to your audience!
3.3. Stage Usage
Let’s say that you’ve got a well lit room, your outfit does not blend in with the background and your presentation is both interactive and informative.
You stand in one place and begin. You are doing everything right and yet, the audience seems distracted. One possible explanation would be that you are stagnant and in being so, for the audience, you may not have blended into the background but you have become a part of it.
Moving around when you give a speech is effective, but you need to gauge when to do it.
An easy hack to this is: Speak-Stay, Transition-Transportation.
It essentially means that when you are speaking or delivering an important point, stay in one place, the only thing the audience should need to focus on is your content, but when you move from one topic or segment to another, you move, it shows the audience that they are moving on from topic to another and helps smoothen your transitions.
3.3.1. How to command attention as soon as you enter?
There exist a lot of tips and tricks to engage your audience or how to keep them engaged but how do you impress them by just walking in?
Confidence may be everything, but it doesn’t have to be given that high a pedestal.
It is natural to be nervous, and know that you can be confident despite it.
What people are looking at when you enter is your body language. The usual ticks of clasping your hands or wiping your sweaty palms or even simple things like shaking your leg can give away nervousness.
A simple smile and good posture can go a long way. If you are meeting anyone, a firm handshake would add to your confidence. Remember, engaging in eye-contact as you enter shows the audience that you are confident and prepared.
You can communicate a lot with a simple nod or gesture. After all, actions speak louder than words. While you begin honing your body language skills for that killer and captivating entrance, we have a great starter article for you to build a link between communication and body language.
Check it out: Body Language And Its Contribution To The Process of Communication.
3.4. Engaging an audience virtually
The pandemic is no stranger to anyone and with almost everything moving to a virtual platform, it is time we public speakers adapt and grow with it.
If keeping the audience hooked was difficult, it has become even more so with them being able to turn off their video and take a nap while you speak and beg for a response.
There is another factor we need to factor in: Shortened Attention Span. With content becoming easier to consume and access, the average human’s attention span has reduced significantly and loosing them takes seconds’ judgement.
Lets look at ways to keep you audience hooked and owning the room, even if it is a virtual one!
3.4.1. Polls and Pre-Speech Engagement
Before you begin your speech, try to get the audience warmed up to your topic.
A cool and easy way is to do this is by taking a poll on something that is closely related to your topic and is something your audience would surely have an idea about.
Many virtual platforms give you the option to screen the poll result as well and this way you are showing the person sitting on the other end of their desktop that “Look! you are a part of something, you gave your opinion and it has counted for something!“
3.4.2. Games for the win!
Last I checked, everyone loves to play games. Who said public speaking was no fun?!?
There are multiple sites out there that help you create your own game, like crosswords, puzzles, word search and so much more! Check them out and see what fits your need the best!
How do you use games in a speech?
Simple: If you want to break the routine and show a more hands on example of the topic at hand, you can use puzzles and games to do just that!
3.4.3. Goosebumps it!
Another cool way to keep your audience interested is to make the presentation tailored to them.
If you haven’t read Goosebumps: The books lets the readers decide what the next action would be and based on that they would move to a particular page number.
You can make your presentations interactive by giving the audience a choice on what to do and moving your presentation / speech according to their inputs!
4. Type of Speech
Everyone has a type. (Not that type, focus!)
Some people are good at storytelling and some are better at speaking on-the-spot, and some are more versatile than others.
Figuring out your speaking style gives you an edge when you want to keep the audience hooked and get that applause. Afterall, no one would prefer a King over an Ace right?
This is one of the most popular types of speeches and are a hit among an audience of a younger age. But, putting it out there, everyone loves a good story!
Storytelling requires you to be versatile and extremely emotive during your delivery. Each emotion, each action needs to be played out in completely exaggerated tones and expressions to make sure you’ve had the right effect and added life to your words.
It really helps in getting the audience excited and when done right can leave them on the edge of their seats wanting more!
Here is a great speech on Storytelling!
A can-do attitude and a strong willed speech which makes the audience want to get up and work on their life right away, which leaves an impact on them strong enough to make them plan their future while adapting the advice the speaker gives is a motivational speech.
A motivational speech requires power, not only in your words but in the way you speak as well. The second you come on stage and start speaking, you need to have an air of authority.
Remember, it is a thin line between motivating and commanding, we need to be careful that we just paint them a picture and encourage them to paint as well, not hold their hand and paint theirs for them!
Usually these speeches revolve around self-care and other social topics.
Motivating your audience is a great way to have a lasting effect on them and for the better! It gives the room a sense of urgency and determination which other types of speeches seldom deliver.
Here is a great example of a Motivational Speech!:
Giving a speech on the spot is really scary! No time to prepare, a dozen blank faces staring at you and what on earth does that topic even mean?
Some people on the other hand are really good with coming up with great impromptu speeches! They can beautifully articulate their words and this is usually their forte.
I would personally not recommend this type of speech if you are giving a technical or a broad topic or even if you are going to be speaking for more than 2 minutes, because you’d be surprised to find out how soon your brain clicks alt+del on everything you know when you are put on the spot!
If you are looking to explore this type of speech, here is a helpful video you can check out!
Some people like Chandler (F.R.I.E.N.D.S Character) and me (give me this, I need it) are naturally funny and make effortless jokes.
But being funny in a conversation, doesn’t mean you can pull off a humorous speech.
In these speeches usually witty humour is used but honestly, if your humour works for your audience, there is no other thing like it.
How do you know if it might work for your audience? HERE COMES AUDIENCE RESEARCH! (Scroll up, I know you skimmed through it: 1.4.)
A humorous speech is a great way to break the ice and bond with your audience, if you want them to remember you, make them laugh.
You can also incorporate a humorous speech with any other type of speech to amplify the effect it has. At the end of the day, the audience would’ve learned something AND had a good time!
Here is a great example of a Humorous Speech!
5. Working on Yourself!
Sometimes, even if everything else works out, if you don’t work on yourself, everything might fall, but it won’t be in its place. That is why I saved the best for last! YOU!
Being comfortable on stage, under the spotlight takes time. It is okay to be nervous and fret but I have figured out a quick hack to help you navigate these waaay too familiar waters!
Know. Your. Content.
The one main thing we are all afraid about is: What if I forget my speech on the stage?
Once you are sure of your content and all the facts and figures are backed by solid proof, a major part of your worry disappears! Practice and Practice and you will know your work like the back of your hand.
It also helps if you do forget your speech in the middle: you know your facts and you know your content, you can confidently go impromptu for a bit until you get to a point from where you can move into your prepared section again!
Be patient with yourself, all of this doesn’t come in a heartbeat!
Sometimes, while trying to be “funny” or “relatable” we tend to alter our behaviour. It may seem cliché but being yourself is the best possible way to get through to your audience.
Look at it this way: You are worried about not delivering the punch-line effectively, about your content and all other things anyone would be nervous about when they are about to present something.
Altering your behaviour is something you will need to maintain and focus on consistently throughout your presentation, you are removing your focus from the content you want to deliver to your behaviour; the human brain is bound to make a mistake as it can not multi-task!
Go easy on yourself, stay true to yourself and your content. After all, honesty is the best policy. 🙂
What to do if your audience doesn’t want to engage?
After that extremely helpful advice, lets look at some techniques that are not a sarcastic comment.
1. Move Away
No. You don’t drop and run the second trouble comes knocking!
If there is a commotion going on and there are people from the organising committee handling it, or maybe people are just coming in or brining in chairs. Trust me, anything can distract the audience.
What you can try is to slightly raise your voice and move to the other side of the stage to shift their focus from that part of the room.
2. Address the Issue
This is usually not the right call, but if you feel that your audience is way too distracted or if someone is being a bit disturbing, remember that you have the mic and that you are in command.
Ask them a direct question, if there is a problem, do they have an issue and accordingly direct them towards the right person or ask the organising committee to take over.
Unfortunately, in this universe exists some trouble makers and it is imperative that what ever action you or anyone else takes, you need to keep your cool and be respectful.
The best way to bring back and captivate a distracted audience is to engage them in conversation.
For example, there are some people walking in a little late and it is creating a bit of a fuss, approach the settled section of your audience and ask them questions, it could be anything from general small talk to them having their doubts and queries answered.
It is always best to be patient and find the best possible approach you can to any situation.
To Sum Up
Owning a Room is a TASK but it is doable. Maybe not now, maybe not at 100% efficiency, but it is possible. It isn’t a one time thing either, you need to keep them engaged throughout your speech!
Apart from all this extra pressure, I’d like to tell you that Public Speaking is a long journey and a fantastic one at that! Working on yourself and being patient with your growth is a starter pack of success and I know your name is written on it!