The Art of Speaking  

Keep your audience off their phones?

Impactful public speaking

YouTube /Wade Paterson

I want you to imagine this scenario—you step on stage, begin speaking and halfway through your presentation, you notice the entire audience is looking down at their phones.

Sounds horrible, right?

The situation detailed above can be daunting for any speaker. It’s hard enough to deliver a speech, but when you realize people aren’t paying attention, it can be even more stressful.

In this column, I will explain how to avoid getting discouraged when noticing a distracted audience member, and I will share a few strategies of how you can win back the audience’s attention.

Don’t panic

First off, it’s important to understand that just because someone is on their phone doesn’t mean they aren’t paying attention.

The reality of the world we live in is that people feel the need to keep an eye on their devices. Perhaps there is an important call they are waiting for, or an urgent e-mail they need to send. Every single time I personally deliver a presentation, I fully anticipate at least a few people will be periodically looking at their phones.

It’s also important to remember many people choose to take notes on their phones. So while they may be staring at their screens, perhaps it is for the purpose of writing down notes, which highlight parts of your speech.

When you realize the audience looking at their phones isn’t necessarily a bad thing, it takes away some of the anxiety.

Leverage body language and vocal variety

If you are making purposeful movements on stage and incorporating vocal variety, you are far more likely to capture your audience’s attention than if you are simply standing in front of a lectern, reading notes in a monotone fashion.

Ninety-three per cent of how a message is communicated is through body language and vocal variety. Speakers who incorporate body language are not only more effectively communicating their message, but they’re also more interesting to watch.

Phones are jam-packed with interesting content and features, so if we want to compete for attention, we need to earn the audience’s attention by being interesting on the stage.

Use humour

If you can get the audience to laugh within the first minute of your speech, you have a good chance of keeping them off of their phones throughout the entire presentation.

When a speaker begins hi or her presentation, the audience often asks themselves if the content is going to be interesting. By making the audience laugh early, you instantly relax them and reassure them that the speech is going to be great.

On the flip side, hearing the audience laugh early gives you (the speaker) an immediate dose of confidence because you know they are enjoying themselves.

Utilize eye contact

There’s a level of accountability that takes place when the speaker makes eye contact with an audience member.

If a speaker never looks directly at a certain audience member, that individual won’t feel bad to look down at their phone. However, when eye contact is established, the member of the audience will likely be more hesitant to look down because they won’t want to upset the speaker.

Eye contact also deepens your message as a speaker. By looking at audience members in the eye, you make them feel more a part of whatever you are talking about, which is a powerful way to deliver your message effectively.

If you’re thinking about joining Toastmasters to improve your public speaking skills, the Kelowna AM Toastmasters Club is always looking for new members.

If you’re interested in learning more about Impactful Communication, subscribe to my YouTube channel.

This article is written by or on behalf of an outsourced columnist and does not necessarily reflect the views of Castanet.

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About the Author

Wade Paterson is an award-winning Toastmaster who is passionate about Impactful Communication.

His columns and accompanying YouTube videos are focused on helping others become more confident public speakers and communicators.

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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