For the rank amateur to the ignorant professional, audiences create the same effect no matter how small they are to a speaker. Fear and anxiety.
From a single person to a crowd as big as the fans in the Super Bowl, speaking in front of a serious listening audience is the true test and baptism of fire.
Despite this, audiences are predictable. Audiences listen to you because they want to learn something from the speaker.
Following this logic, the speaker would do well to follow the strategy of making it informative as well as interesting to listeners to see your speech through till the end.
Here are some tips on how you can have the audience listen in rapt attention.
1. Speak according to the listeners’ interests. It is always a good idea to find out what the crowd you are speaking to is interested in. For example, if you have more teenagers in the crowd, you don’t really want to talk about your subject in a way that bores them, like good education. Other aspects to consider would be the local culture, age, sports, religious inclinations, etc. Talk about what’s important to them, something they can easily relate to without a stretch of imagination.
2. Praise the audience. Audiences are human too, and each and every one of them has a need to be acknowledged as much as you want to be acknowledged for speaking well in front of them. There is only one requirement for this maxim, that your praise be one hundred percent sincere. Anything less and you’ll have resentment in your hands.
3. Connect with the audience. Find a common thread that makes the audience relate to you, and you’ll find that the speech will come through really well. Finding a common thread humanizes you and the speech. It makes them want to listen to you because it may in some way be of great benefit to them.
4. Have the audience participate. Get somebody to come onstage and participate in a demonstration. Ask questions of the audience. Get feedback. Encourage them to walk up to the microphone and give you a piece of their mind. The point is to involve the audience, once more, making it more real to them. Taking them along with you in your experience.
5. Less you, more them. Play yourself down. Nobody, especially an audience, likes to be lectured to. This will cause resentment that will last a long time. Never feel that you are above them. The better way to think about your audience would be that you care about their welfare. Think of yourself as their best friend, and more often than not, this will hold you in good stead.