3 tips to HOLD your audience during a presentation

by | Jul 10, 2014


Wow and audience with your HOOK

HOLD your audience

Wow your Audience:  Hook, HOLD, Engage & Deliver

There’s nothing more rewarding than being able to hold your audience’s attention!  The challenge is how? Think of a time when you were last riveted to your seat, hanging on to every word the presenter was saying: can you?

Let’s take a look at Christine Lagarde’s recent speech she delivered in Washington DC last month: Dare the Difference:

Read how she manages to not only hook us into her speech (see my last post, Wow your Audience! The Hook), she also holds our attention throughout.

Here are three tips to hold your audience I’d like to share with you.

1 Tell a compelling story.

Christine Lagarde begins with a compelling story.  Quote:| I want to begin today with a story—a well-known puzzle. A young boy is involved in a traffic accident, and is immediately rushed to the hospital for urgent surgery.”

She immediately draws us in. Quote: “In the bustle and chaos of the hospital environment, the surgeon strides into the operating room. Think of a quintessential surgeon—brimming with confidence and authority, a true type-A personality, one who knows instinctively how to take charge. Yet this distinguished surgeon looks down at the boy and gasps, saying: “I can’t operate on this boy… it’s my son”. Indeed, the boy is the surgeon’s son. Yet the surgeon is not the boy’s father. Who then?

Now we’re hooked (see my last post: Wow your audience! The hook). And we’re all wondering, if he’s not the father, then who is he? And that’s where she holds us: she weaves her story into the purpose of her speech.

 Stories are memorable, they evoke emotion, they engage us.

The more emotionally we connect to the speaker and you with your audience, the better they will listen to what you have to say. But, telling stories isn’t enough, which brings me to my second tip.

2 Get to the point.

Christine Lagarde gets straight to the point after revealing that no, the surgeon is not his father, because it’s not a he, it’s a she, and she’s his mother. Quote: I know that everyone in this room can see the answer immediately. It is simple—the surgeon is a she, she is the boy’s mother.

 She then gets straight to the point.

Quote: My message is simple: we need a 21st century mentality for women’s economic participation. We need to flush away the flotsam of ingrained gender inequality. We need to, as I like to say, “Dare the difference”. To “dare” means to take risks, to step out of our cozy comfort zones, to let hope extinguish fear and courage conquer timidity.

If the purpose of your speech is not clear you will have your audience wondering why you’re talking to them, risking that they will drift off and lose focus.  Tell your audience why you’re talking to them and what your main message and purpose is. What’s in it for them: WIIFT! And, for those with busy schedules who have to leave before the end, you’ll already have reached them. It also gives your speech a clear structure, which brings me to my third tip.

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3 Structure your speech.

A clear structure helps your audience to follow your speech, hold their attention and remember it. A great way to do this is to use the power of three: tell them what you’re going to tell them (introduction), tell them (body), tell them what you have told them (conclusion).  It works every time.

Here’s how Christine Lagarde tells us what she’s going to talk about. Quote: Ultimately, daring the difference means wedging open the door to the contribution of women—their learning, their labor, and their leadership. The “3 L’s” of women’s empowerment. Let me talk briefly about each of them.”

 She then tells us as she speaks about learning, labor and leadership.

She concludes with first a quote, which is a great way to end. Quote: “Let me conclude today with some words from Sylvia Plath: “We shall by morning inherit the earth—our foot’s in the door”.

She then goes on to with her powerful message summarising the essence of her speech. Quote: “It is now time to fulfil the promise—to create a world where every little girl from every corner of every continent can fulfil her potential without impediment and without prejudice (learning). To make sure that nobody ever again will doubt for even an instant that a woman can be a top surgeon (labor), or indeed a leader (leadership) in any field that she might choose.”

 She ends as so many great orators end: with a rhetorical device (Chiasmus),

This is a very effective technique where the words in one phrase or clause are reversed in the next. Quote: “If we dare the difference, the difference will deliver.”

Next time you’re preparing your speech, what compelling story will you tell us so we are drawn in and remember?  How will you get to the point so we know from the start why?  What structure will you use so we clearly follow? Preparing all three will wow your audience and hold their attention.

Here’s a link to the full transcript of Christine Lagarde’s speech: Daring the Difference: The 3 L’s of Women’s Empowerment

Look out for the third sequel in the Speaking Success© series: Wow your audience! Engage.


Sandra Lizioli Subscriber
Bridge your communications gap with Sandra Lizioli, Communications Consultant, Speaker and Coach. Sandra tackles impromptu speaking and the art of spontaneity to get your message across with clarity, confidence and conviction, even when unprepared.
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