I was privileged to be a close combat instructor of the Singapore military during my national service stint. Over the two years, I’ve received interesting different responses from varied crowds hailing from different demographics. I’ve instructed both elite infantry units and recruits to even officers during my time in the Singapore military.
When you’re expected to command an audience of diverse backgrounds that respond to different forms of communication week in and out, you’ll have to be highly adaptable. Here are 5 ways to command an audience:
1) Be Authoritative
If you’re standing in front of an audience to impart lessons on a subject, you’re expected to be authoritative or at least competent about your subject matter. They aren’t there to listen to something they’ve already heard umpteen times before, but a unique perspective on your topic of discussion.
Likened to a teacher who is unsure about a subject that he or she is teaching, you’ll very quickly lose the audience’s respect and ultimately their attention.
On the flip side, there are teachers that walk into the room and immediately commands your attention, almost effortlessly earning the respect of those listening. It’s slightly different from ‘knowing’ your stuff, but more so exuding an aura of authority. How can you be authoritative then?
Three of the simplest ways be more authoritative are:
Strong Eye Contact
You need to be able to hold strong, regular eye contact with your crowd. There are no two ways about it. In my experience as a military instructor, I regularly have more than a hundred grown men looking up to me, waiting for instructions. Looking down to the floor with shifty eyes and uncertainty is one of the fastest ways to lose their attention and respect.
Strong Body Language
Secondly, is your body language.
When humans get scared, we close up our postures similar to how animals go into a submissive position or posture. It’s so rampant (especially in public figures), that we’ve given it a name: the ‘Fig-Leaf Presenting Position‘. Presenters that are nervous or afraid tend to default into this defensive stance to protect their more sensitive parts of the body.
Ever heard of ‘Fake it, till you make it’? To appear more confident via more effective body language, try to consciously maintain a good, comfortable posture. Walk with large purposeful strides, with your feet, shoulder-width apart.
Commanding Vocal Tonality
Lastly, it’s your vocal tonality. I’ve seen huge, bulky military men crumble into nervous wrecks when put infront of an audience in a public-speaking situation. They tend to talk much faster to get through the experience much quicker. This comes at the expense of the audience and their presence.
Instead, to truly command attention, you’ll do well to talk more slowly.
As TED Speaker, Amy Cuddy, Author of ‘Presence’ aptly put:
“Powerful people initiate speech more often, talk more overall, and make more eye contact while they’re speaking than powerless people do. When we feel powerful, we speak more slowly and take more time. We don’t rush. We’re not afraid to pause. We feel entitled to the time we’re using.”
One of the best ways to get good these three areas are to study the speeches of powerful politicians and businessman. Take Lee Kuan Yew’s Speech for example:
2) Demonstrate Instead of Simply Telling
Instead of telling them what you can do. Show them what you can do. If you’re lucky enough to have access to visual aids, you can show pictures or multimedia. In situations where you don’t have access to technology, it always helps to demonstrate live.
One of my favorite demonstrations as an instructor was when we needed to teach the basics of self-defense. The approach was to find the heaviest soldier from the crowd as a volunteer and execute a simple, but effective technique that would sweep him off his feet, resulting in the soldier falling on his back.
As I have a smaller frame (at 1.67M and 65KG) than many of the recruits, the demonstration held even more power. Demonstrating that a much smaller soldier could easily takedown someone two times larger left a deep impression in many of my recruits – not to mention it also helped to cement a positive impression of my capabilities in their minds for the months to follow.
3) Be Passionate
Thirdly, passion goes a long way to command an audience.
“If you organize your life around your passion, you can turn your passion into your story and then turn your story into something bigger―something that matters.” ―Blake Mycoskie
In every class I instruct, there will often be a small minority who isn’t a 100% interested in the class material. They’d much prefer to slack off, not pay attention or cause some disruption to classes with their unruliness. However, over time, I observed that tweaking certain aspects of my delivery became useful in winning over these non-enthusiasts.
Accentuate the Details
You know someone is passionate about that particular expertise when he’s able to pick out the tiny details that 99% of people miss. Identify certain nuances in your field that the majority hardly talks about. Include them in your presentation and delivery to watch your audiences appreciate the effort.
For example, in the arena of public speaking, effective speakers typically pay attention to vocal tonality, the speed of delivery, pauses, vocal inflections when on stage. These are details that most people miss, but differentiate the good speakers from the great ones.
Find Your ‘Flow’
The psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi introduced a concept named ‘flow’. When you’re doing something you’re passionate about, you find yourself losing track of time and your surroundings. That is an example of having found ‘flow’.
Ever observed a street performer so immersed in his performance that you can’t help but steal a closer look? That’s a great example of commanding an audience through flow. The key is to be present at the moment without having your mind wander off and getting distracted by other thoughts.
Mindfulness training and actively focusing on that specific moment you’re delivering your speech can do wonders for your delivery.
4) Work with your Audience
Find Common Ground
If you’re working with an audience, you need to garner their trust, respect, and likeability, fast. As an instructor, it’s a tough line to toe. Overly nice treatment gets you perceived as a pushover and being too strict can sow discord. The most effective takeaway I got from these occasions is that the audience needs to perceive you as being ‘one of them’. As Cialdini stated in his book, Influence, people tend to like people that are like them.
If my men perceive me to be a dictator figure hell-bent on my own agendas, nobody is going to listen to me, much less follow my instructions. Introducing parts of your personality or background that aligns with that of audience members is a quick way to build instant rapport and familiarity.
Speak Their Language
Through the years as an instructor, I found that if you speaking to your audience’s hopes, dreams, and fears, you can get them to listen to you more attentively. You can garner their trust, respect and become more likable.
For example, most people aren’t interested in ‘financial literacy’. However, a lot of them are worried about housing loans, car loans or salary increases. Use layman language and avoid speaking at a high-level to connect with your audience members on a personal level.
5) Hold to your Highest Purpose
Lastly, you cannot command an audience when speaking in front of them if you do not hold to your highest purpose. Have you ever wondered how Gandhi, Martin Luther King gave speeches that changed the world?
Yes. That’s because they are holding to their highest purpose. They are delivering those speeches from a point that’s deeply rooted in their purpose. For the greater good.
You may not be Winston Churchill beckoning troops to fight on the beaches, however, you can also hold to your highest purpose when speaking to a crowd.
Contribute to Something Meaningful
The highest purpose of my role as a SAF self-defense instructor was to impart self-defense instruction in an effective manner to Singapore military troops to enable them to defend themselves in an unarmed combat situation. In my heart and in my bones, I was aligned with that purpose and the reason that we’re conducting the presentation in the first place.
The session did not feel forced. Being able to defend yourself in dangerous situations as a soldier can mean the difference between life and death. I was glad to avail time to spend with these young men hailing from different families and backgrounds to enable them to serve their nation. Likewise, your speech should be something that you believe in.
If you communicate to your audience in a ‘just had to be done’ manner, the devil-may-care attitude towards the topic might backfire. Audiences can feel the lack of sincerity and tune out immediately.
However, gearing your energy and presentation towards your noble agenda or purpose can help you become more charismatic and persuasive.
Through the years as a self-defense instructor for the Singapore military, I found that being authoritative, demonstrating instead of simply telling, being passionate about your subject, working with your audience and holding to your highest purposes are 5 timeless principles to command an audience.
Ever wondered why it is so hard to keep your audience engaged? Well, here’s the answer. According to research, the average attention span of a human is eight seconds. And what this means is that your audience are likely to lose their attention during your presentation, and you wouldn’t want that to happen would you?
Delivering a presentation isn’t as easy as it seems, and on top of that, the thought of your audience not listening to you can haunts you throughout your presentation. In this article, we have prepared 15 tips to help you keep your audience engaged during your presentation.
1. Tell stories
“Sometimes reality is too complex. Stories give it form.” – Jean Luc Godard
Ever heard of Shark Tank? Entrepreneurs take part in the show to seek funds from a group of sharks in return for equity for a new product that they have just launched. The way they would pitch about their product is to start with a story that focusses on the problem followed by a demonstration of the product that help provide a solution to it.
So why do they use stories to communicate the problem? Isn’t it easier if they just stated it and moved on from there? Why put in the effort to come up with a story?
Thus, storytelling can play a huge part in helping the audience better understand your point.
Here’s a video of Andy Harrington speaking about the number one way to engage your audience:
2. Eye contact
Most of us have been a victim of painful presentations. Some contain really heavy content, some are filled with numbers and facts, and some are just… boring. One of the ways to keep the audience engaged is to maintain eye contact with them. When you look them in the eye, they are more likely to back at look at you. This way, they get less distracted by other things such as games on their phones and become more focused on you and your content.
3. Start by telling your audience what they’ll take away from your presentation
Imagine listening to a presentation hoping to gain knowledge about a particular something, and the next thing you know, the session is over – turns out, nothing memorable was mentioned, no valuable insight or takeaway from the session.
It would be a plus to inform your audience at the start of your presentation about your agenda or goals so that they know to expect from it. This way, they are more likely to listen attentively and anticipate the information that you’ll be speaking about, which will engage them in your presentation.
4. Emphasise key words
Make it clear to your audience what they really need to pay attention to by changing your tone when it comes to the important information. You can also speak a little softer when you’re emphasising a key point to make the audience focus on you more.
You must be wondering then, why softer and not louder? This is because when you speak softly, people tend to associate it with important things like secrets – which makes them all the more interested in what you have to say.
With that being said, there’s nothing wrong with speaking louder too, though it depends on what the message is and how you would want to convey it to the audience.
You can also consider using the following techniques to emphasize the important points:
Inform your audience that you are about to say something important.
Make the most important point the climax of a story
5. Use silence effectively
Imagine explaining an extremely complex situation or problem to someone. Do you instantly move on to the next point or do you wait for them to process the information before moving on?
This is the same with presentations. When you make a statement, it’s important to wait in silence to observe how people receive the message. Give the audience some time to receive and digest the information. Don’t flood the them with too much information or you’ll end up overwhelming them, which is a sure fire way to lose their interest.
6. Incorporate humour into your presentation
When you have a creative presentation lined up for the audience, you’ve won half the battle. Creative presentation will help to differentiate you from other presenters. What’s left is to maintain their attention towards you throughout the presentation.
Life is too short to be serious about everything. Lighten the mood by incorporating some humor into your presentation to keep the audience engaged. Leo Rosten, an American Humorist, once said “Humour is the affectionate communication of insight.” I’m sure the audience will be happy to listen to a joke or two during a presentation, especially those with heavy content.
7. Encourage interaction
Ever wondered why speakers say things like “Raise your hands if you agree” or “Raise your hands if you have done this before”?
Doing this helps stimulate engagement amongst the audience. Not only that, speakers are also able to find out if you have been listening through your response.
Here’s a tip: make use of online quizzes such as Kahoot during your presentation Kahoot is a customisable online poll to help kickstart a discussion with your audience. They can take part in the quiz using their electronic devices.
This helps find out if they have been listening to you through their participation and also keep them engaged.
8. Be enthusiastic
Don’t expect your audience to be excited about your presentation when you yourself are not. Be enthusiastic and spread the positive vibes to your audience. Remember, you only have 7 seconds to either make it or break it when it comes to creating a lasting impression on your audience. So start off strong with lots of energy to create a lasting first impression. That way, they are more likely to listen to your presentation as they may find you fun and interesting.
9. Pause periodically
Pauses allows your audience to interrupt your presentation with their burning questions. This way, there will be more interaction between you and your audience, thus they’ll be engaged and involved throughout the presentation. You can also switch the presentation up by asking your audience questions once in a while instead of letting them do all the asking. This also helps them to ponder over the issue that you’ve brought up.
10. Alternate your pacing
Would you rather listen to a presentation at the same pace or would you rather have variations? Imagine listening to the presentation outline for a minute when it can actually be done in a shorter amount of time. As a presenter, incorporate some variations into your presentation to spice things up.
For example, when you’re speaking about the presentation outline and background information, you can pick up the pace as it is less important as compared to your main points. And when you’re at your main points, you can speak slower to be more elaborate and to allow your audience to fully absorb the information.
11. Go off script
It would be good to practice the delivery of your presentation in advance so as to look well-prepared and professional. When you look more confident and professional, your audience is more likely to buy your message. After a few rounds of practicing, you should be very familiar with the flow of your presentation and can make do without the cue cards.
However, there is no point memorising and knowing your content at the back of your head if you sound robotic, rigid and rehearsed. The moment you do, chances are, your audience would know and they won’t be able to feel your sincerity when you’re speaking.
So don’t think about how you should act, speak or behave. Let all these expectations go down the drain and speak like how you normally would with a friend or family member – Personal, warm and your walls down. Speak naturally, not word for word.
12. Use your voice
Imagine you’re listening to a monotonous person speak for several minutes. Wouldn’t you feel as though you are listening to a robot? If you’re the presenter, you wouldn’t want to speak in the same tone throughout your presentation as this would bore the audience.
One of the way to capture the attention of the audience is to add a personal and emotional touch to your presentation. If you have noticed, most speakers out there would constantly change their tone according to the context of their presentation. Let’s take Obama as an example. Have you ever heard him speak monotonously? You rarely right, this is because he uses his voice to keep his audience engaged by adding some tone into his speech.
13. Keep it short and sweet
The attention span that can be comfortably held by an interested human engaged in listening to a speaker is around 18 to 20 minutes. It’s the same for students in lectures. They can never listen to a 90-minute lecture without having to take a break – and even with breaks, they tend to lose focus after the first half of the lecture. I have been there and done that and I’m sure most of you have too.
My point is, try to keep your presentations short and sweet but not to the point where you leave out important information. Eliminate unnecessary and irrelevant topics in your presentation as this would also cause the audience to lose focus.
14. Break the ice
If you are speaking to an audience that you’ve just met for the first time, it is important to make them feel comfortable. Wouldn’t you feel much more comfortable when you’re listening to a friend as opposed to when you’re listening to a stranger? This is the same for your audience. They want to hear someone – a friend when you’re speaking. Not a stranger. So to do this, conduct simple ice breaker activities before properly starting your presentation to get them to warm up to you. Examples of ice breakers activities are: Live Polls, 2 truths 1 lie and the classic – Raise your hand if….
Only then when your audience is comfortable with your presence, will you notice that they will be more attentive, making it easier for you to engage them.
Here’s another tip: when you are conducting the activities, try being enthusiastic and personable. Don’t hesitate to go all out and don’t be afraid to embarrass yourself in front of the audience. Any hesitation or fear on your part will only make your audience doubt you in return.
15. Avoid providing handouts before or during a presentation
The main purpose of a presentation is to convey your message to the audience. Handouts are secondary.
Although handouts are great for the audience since they can refer to them for further detail and elaboration, distributing them –especially before or during the presentation– will only serve to distract them.
Not only that, they may end up reading the handout instead of focusing on your presentation.
Furthermore, if your handout contains sensitive information, there is no reason why the audience shouldn’t copy it or worse – give it to your competitors.
Thus, handouts can act as a double-edged sword. Useful for the audience, but risky for you. If you plan to make use of handouts, proceed with caution. Weigh the benefits and risks before continuing.
Wrapping it Up
And there you have it! 15 tips to help make your audience glued to their seats during a presentation. Give yourself a pat on the back for making it through this article. Do let us know in the comments if you’ve tried these methods and if it worked out for you!
Q&A is like unchartered territory – unpredictable and full of surprises. It’s a double edged sword, either reinforcing your message or undermining it. One wrong move and you may lose the credibility you’ve worked hard to build as a speaker.
Many speakers – even seasoned ones – are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? You can’t know the questions that will be coming your way. It’s one thing to talk to a crowd but another when it’s a two-way dialogue taking place.
Q&A sessions are not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well – which makes sense why so many can get stage fright, and possibly a break a cold sweat just thinking about it. Naturally, it happens to most people that may not have gone for presentation skills training, but it’s more common than you think.
Either way, whether you love or hate it, Q&A sessions are an essential tool. It makes your talk a subject of conversation and a way to connect with your audience. With a bit of preparation, research and determination, you can leverage on the Q&A session to help elevate your talk and reinforce your credibility as a speaker.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help ensure your Q&A sessions are as smooth-sailing as possible:
1) Q&A Objectives
A good Q&A session is more than just an allocated time slot for your audience to ask random questions.
The purpose of a Q&A like any presentation, speech or pitch needs to have a clear objective that meets the goal at the end of the day. That means making it evident of the direction you want the session to go.
If you do make use of a moderator, a good one would already be guiding your session to the desired direction easily.
2) Hold a briefing session before the event
It is vital that you brief everyone before your presentation so they are prepared which in turn, can provide the best experience for your audience.
Clarify any issues, questions or instructions from the people working behind the scenes such as stage managers and moderators before running through the event program so everything is in place and running smoothly.
3) Dedicate enough time
This is something you should establish earlier on in the planning stages of your session. Timing for a Q&A session depends on your set up. If your Q&A session will be conducted after your presentation, then a good 15 minutes should be given. However, if it is a team presentation, then the time given should be extended to ensure each presenter gets a chance to answer the questions as well.
Speakers often focus their efforts into the presentation and leave the remaining time allocated to a Q&A session. This means the audience can only answer one or two questions at best. This compromises further engagement with the audience.
To further engage your audience and strengthen your credibility as a speaker, the Q&A session should match the length of the presentation. You can even consider switching it the other way round where your presentation is short and sweet followed by a longer Q&A
4) Prepare questions beforehand
“Over prepare then go with the flow” – Regina Brett
It doesn’t hurt to over prepare – after all it’s the backbone of success. To ensure you’re not caught off guard or flustered over the questions the audience may ask, think of a few to anticipate beforehand.
Make it a habit to write down these questions down especially the tough or controversial ones before rehearsing your answer. Run a mock session with your trusted and reliable colleagues, friends or family to ensure your answers are well thought of and don’t offend your audience. The evaluation and feedback given from the mock session is key to helping you improve as a speaker.
But, if there are a lack of questions asked during your presentation, don’t shy away from initiating first. Not only do you avoid awkward silences, it also helps to kick start the discussion and inspire more questions from the audience.
5) Engage a strong moderator
If you need someone to moderate your Q&A session, then it’s important to choose a good moderator as they can help boost the effectiveness of your Q&A. Ultimately, the role of the moderator is to bridge the gap between the audience and the speaker. Hence, they need to be someone who is comfortable with being on stage, able to handle pressure and facilitate the conversation – not join in or control it.
A good moderator ensures the purpose of the session is intact, is able to guide the questions back to the main topic of the session as well as prevent the session from being hijacked by a troublesome audience member. Make sure to take these considerations in mind when finding a good moderator.
6) Collect Questions Ahead of the Event
Throughout the event, you can start collecting questions before and during your speech. This is helpful in several ways. You as the speaker will be able to plan how to address these questions. The moderator will be able to guide the session better.For the audience, they’re able to ask questions that truly matter instead of scrambling to think of one that may not be useful to them or you. It’s a win-win situation.
One of the ways to collect questions beforehand is using Mentimeter or Kahoot. Both are polling tools where you or your audience can set questions or provide input via a mobile phone or any other device connected to the Internet.
7) Use the right tools and equipment
Are you planning on having your audience ask their questions vocally or online? Either way, make sure that these tools are able to function with ease during the session itself.
If you’re making use of a microphone, ensure the volume of the microphone is loud enough that even the audience from the back are able to hear the questions asked loud and clear. If you’re facilitating the questions online, then make sure the Wi-Fi or internet is strong so you can receive their questions easily.
It’s not life or death situation if you need a moment to think before answering a question. Sometimes, answering too quickly may make you seem defensive to the audience so it’s okay to take a few seconds to indulge the question. Not only that, answering instantly may wind up making you stumble over your answers which in turn makes them doubt your credibility. Worse, you may even make the mistake of answering nothing related in your haste.
Although it may be awkward to pause due to the silence, your audience won’t think badly of it. In fact, they will appreciate that you took the time to process their questions. You’ll also look more genuine and authentic as a speaker – not a scripted, monotonous robot.
9) Reduce filler words
Although not everyone is graced with speaking fluently in front of an audience, constantly saying ‘um’, ‘well’, ‘you know’ and ‘uh’ will do little to establish your credibility as a speaker. These filler words will also annoy your audience when used repetitively.
But what you can do is reduce using these fillers when speaking. Make it a habit to pause so you can gather your thoughts before you speak. Better to take a few seconds to speak in a cohesive manner than instantly speaking, stumbling over your words.
10) Get straight to the point
Often times, speakers beat around the bush when answering questions during Q&A. It may or may not be intentional as there are other factors that can cause the speaker to answer the questions in a long-winded manner.
For instance, they may not have listened closely or they may not have not known how to answer the question and decided to change the topic. Either way, it doesn’t matter. Beating around the bush will only compromise your credibility as a speaker.
So before you answer a question, make sure to listen carefully. Then, make sure to give a short and straight forward answer.
This brings me to my next point.
11) Confirm that you’ve answered the question
After answering a question, always make sure you clarify if you have truly answered it. Throughout the Q&A session, make it a habit to ask if you’ve answered the question or if your answer was clear. It shows you care and that their needs are being met.
12) Don’t get thrown off by the awkward or random question
Elon Musk mentions that even the most well-prepared and organised presentation can go haywire if the speaker is confronted by irrelevant, random and awkward questions.
If you’re lucky, you won’t encounter this. Nonetheless, it’s still important to be prepared to face it and answer as professionally as possible before tying it back to the topic.
This may take a few tweaks here and there especially when It comes to mastering how to handle awkward questions. With that being said, even if the questions asked are not related, answer it honestly anyway. It may end up being the answer you are most remembered for.
One example is Former President Bill Clinton who encounters being asked a totally random question: “Boxers or Briefs?”. Although the question was puzzling and did not tie with his speech, he answered anyway.
Here’s a video of Elon Musk calmly tackling random and awkward questions after his presentation:
Notice how most of the audience members in the video ask long-winded questions. Elon Musk does not harshly tell them off but firmly says “No essays, only questions” to bring them back on track.
13) Learn How to Handle a Tough Audience
Of course most of the questions asked by the audience are sincere. Their intentions are never to hurt or bring malice upon the speaker.
But sometimes, we are faced with audience members who ask questions intended to make themselves look smarter, put the focus on them or, make the speaker look dumb and undermine their credibility
Whatever the purpose is, there many ways to come out unscathed when handling a tough crowd. Despite so, always make sure to be the bigger person. Answer all their questions with professionalism and keep your emotions in check.
Ending the Session
And we’re nearing the end! You’re almost done so make sure to end the session off strong.
Summarise in one or two short sentences encompassing the message of your talk and always make sure to thank the audience for their time and attention – even if they were a tough audience.
Always be humbled by the audience’s presence even if the talk did not go as plan. This sincerity in turn, may keep your audience coming back for more – or at least leave a long lasting impression on them.
Summing It Up
The best Q&A sessions are ones where you provide your audience with a voice and a safe space for interaction. Not just for the sake of having one.
It all boils down to one purpose: to enhance their learning experience after your presentation or speech.
With that being said, Q&A sessions are only one of the many factors that help you craft an impressive presentation. Make sure to put in the same amount of effort and dedication to planning and executing your presentation as well, and you’ll definitely have a presentation with that ‘wow’ factor.
Don’t forget to implement the 13 steps mentioned to help maximise your Q&A session’s potential and added value. Remember to:
Prepare yourself and others
Know your objective the the Q&A session
Brief others of your plan
Delegate enough time
Anticipate and prepare questions that may be asked
Ensure you have a strong moderator
Make use of the right tools to enhance your session
Pause to ensure your point sinks in
Do not rush and stumble on your words, reduce filler words
Don’t beat around the bush
Ensure if you’ve answered the questions properly
Don’t get thrown off by awkward questions
Learn to handle a tough crowd
Let us know and comment down below if it worked for you!
Every time you go up on stage to speak to the audience, it’s ultimately to establish and develop a good relationship with them. To win the heart of the audience is to gain their trust and their respect all while providing engagement and credible information during a speech.
With that being said however, most speakers worry about whether their audience will like them or not – especially when they have to speak to a tough crowd.
How to Approach Tough Audience Members
These tough audiences can come in many forms. They’re either unimpressed, unconvinced or will jump at any opportunity to scrutinise and judge your every action. If not, they could just be plain uninterested.
This is every speaker’s worse nightmare. But while it can be daunting to face these groups of people, there are ways you can get them to switch to your side. All you need is a lot of determination, patience and effort.
So let’s start with knowing the audience. In order to get a tough audience to switch, it’s important that we understand what type of tough audience members we can typically find. This is so we can frame our presentations to adapt to their needs.
Here are the four types of difficult audience members and how to approach them:
1. The Entertainer
Just like their label, they love the social part of public speaking and this is often more important to them than listening to you. They participate by offering comments and questions to entertain and make the attention shift towards them rather than on the speaker.
At times, they can be of great entertainment but if you’re trying to bring up or convey a serious issue, their energy can undermine your efforts.
Here’s how to identify one:
They constantly promote themselves
They crack jokes
How to Handle This Type:
a) Bite Your Tongue
Do not challenge them unless you wish to make a new enemy. Resist the temptation to give a witty comeback or to crush his or her ego. Instead, be polite and answer their question before quickly moving on.
b) Leverage On Their Energy Skilfully
Sometimes, it’s okay to direct the attention towards the entertainer. Keep them involved by constantly asking questions and giving plenty of eye contact. However, to give the other audience members a chance to participate as well, only ask the entertainers a very specific type of question.
If that doesn’t work, cut short any comments that do not relate to the question.
c) Maintain an Easygoing Approach
Avoid being too serious or you’ll seem like a wet blanket. It’s okay to go with the flow with the entertainer at times. You can laugh at their jokes and give your audience some fun via this entertainer.
This helps give your audience a break – especially when the topic is difficult, complex or boring – before pulling them back to focus.
d) Bring Them Back on Track
Sometimes your talk may require the scene to be much more serious due to the depth of the issue. To ensure, that the entertainer does not lead the talk out of point, gently get them on track by mentioning the purpose of your speech and how you’d prefer the audience to behave.
2. The Rock
This person does not budge. Literally. No matter how much you try to engage with them, they won’t respond or provide any sort of reaction at all.
This is because they’re often socially anxious and will try to avoid participating or interacting in speeches. Despite so, these very people are also aware of how you, the speaker, behaves towards them.
How to Identify One:
Lack of response
Does not like to participate
How to Handle This Type:
a) Do Not Assume
You won’t get much opinions or questions asked from a room full of these individuals, but don’t judge a book by its cover – they may not necessarily dislike or are bored of what you have say to say. This brings me to my next point.
b) Warm Them Up
Try welcoming them into the room with a smile on your face, so they’ll feel much more comfortable and relaxed. This creates a positive environment which makes them much more keen to voice out their opinions as well.
c) Ask for their thoughts
The Rocks are usually the most reflective members of an audience. Due to their detachment from the group, their opinions and thoughts are mostly unbiased and offer a fresh perspective into your topic or issue.
3. The Critic
This audience member is every speaker’s nightmare because all it takes is one mistake. One mistake and these people will jump on you like a pack of hyenas that finally cornered its prey. They will scrutinise your every detail and action before they deem you as a trustworthy or credible speaker.
How to Identify One:
“Hi yes, I noticed that the second slide with the third paragraph overlaps the fifth paragraph with the second column on the first row”
Constantly questions your every intention while looking you up head to toe in scrutiny
Has a hostile or cynical attitude towards you or your topic
How to Handle This Type:
a) Welcome Them:
Listen to their comments and do your best to work with them rather than restricting them. This not only enables an open discussion; you may even get to gain a few insights from another person’s perspective as well.
In the end, they will also perceive you as a humble speaker who believes that their opinions matter too.
b) Agree with Them
If you still firmly believe your opinions are right, it’s okay to provide reasonable and tangible evidence to support your point. Just, make sure to do so in a calm and objective manner to avoid sounding defensive.
4. The Rebel
The rebel is basically someone who just wants to disagree with everything you have to say. Their reason for opposing you can vary. Sometimes it’s because they just hate your guts or worse – they do it because they think it’s fun to make the speaker squirm.
Either way, it’s important not to let them push your buttons or all the effort you’ve built for your image and credibility as a speaker will be thrown out the window just like that.
How to Identify One:
When You say the sky is blue, they yell back in protest, “No! Look out the window! It’s grey!”
Constantly finding ways to irritate you with irrelevant questions or statements
How to Handle This Type:
a) Turn the Tables
Most comics deal with this type by turning them into the target of the joke. This is good if you are naturally very good when it comes to improvised humour.
b) Do Not React
These types of individuals’ main goal are to fire you up so the worse think you can do is to let your emotions get the better of you.
One very quick way to stop them from constantly finding ways to get under your skin is to just stare at him or her with a neutral expression. They will eventually grow more irritated instead of the other way round since you’re not falling for their trap.
Winning Your Audience’s Trust
Now you know what to expect from the type of audience members you will be facing, it’s also equally important to know what you can do to gain their trust as a whole.
According to experts, trust affects a speaker’s credibility. This is because your audience view trustworthiness as your motivation to be truthful. Furthermore, gaining trust often makes audiences believe in your message as well.
Hence, here are the 7 Tips to help gain the trust and respect of your audience:
1. Embrace the ‘tough crowd’
“Embrace each challenge in your life as a an opportunity for self-transformation” -Bernie Siegel
We all have to face a tough crowd at least once in our lives. It’s inevitable. But, instead of seeing this as a challenge, try turning the table around so that it works in your favour.
Come onto the stage with a positive mindset and approach them like they’re the best crowd you’ve spoken to. The key is to look at every laugh or any sort of interest in your speech as a gift. Think this way: Every laugh or moment a listener engages in your presentation is an affirmation that you’re doing my job.
Focus on what is working and put your insecurities and doubt aside. This is so you can free up your mind to work on the good things and go from there.
2. Don’t take it personally
So far, we’ve been talking about how you can gain the heart of your audience. But one sure fire way to lose them forever is to take their comments to heart.
We, as humans, are naturally driven by emotions. But sometimes, letting them get in the way prevents us from establishing a good relationship with our audience. To ensure this does not happen, focus on the result that you’re looking for and not on how the process is making you feel, or whether the person offended you.
Although this sounds simple, it’s easier said than done. This is especially so when we encounter a rude and unreasonable individual that steps out of line. Don’t stoop to their level. Instead, take a deep breath, remain calm and try to deal with this individual patiently.
In return, the audience will realise that you are being treated unfairly. Not only that, the audience will have a better and positive image of you as well. The rude individual on the other hand, will look like a jerk as a result.
3. Addressing the Elephant in the Room
There will be a point in time where something unexpected happens or the audience knows something embarrassing or controversial about you.
For example, it could be someone in the crowd that was insulting or throwing food at you before you could speak or a ‘scandal’ that you allegedly got into.
Either way, it creates an awkward atmosphere between you and audience. Hence why you should address it even more to get it out of the way.
If not, you risk losing your audience’s attention because they’re too preoccupied by the unspoken issue that you did not clear before your speech. This ‘elephant’ that surrounds the room is what’s hindering them from paying attention in the first place.
President Barack Obama strongly believes in this saying. He openly acknowledges his discomforts which often include his race, his ‘funny name’ and the fact that his father comes from a developing part of the world and once lived in a hut.
This is an uncomfortable topic for him as his background may make him seem less eligible than the other leaders in America.
Despite the discomforts he faces, he still addresses them head on with humour, easing the comfort of those to whom he speaks. The outcome? He successfully manages to lead his audience back to his main point.
4. Show you understand
No one and I repeat no one likes to be told that ‘they don’t understand’. So when someone in the audience decides to challenge your idea, don’t fight it; embrace it. Say: ‘Tell me more’ so you can have an effective, enlightening and calm discussion.
This will show your effort in trying to understand your audience and you are doing so by addressing their concerns.
Here’s an added tip: constantly ask for their opinion or thoughts from time to time. This makes them feel wanted and appreciated as they feel that what they say matters to you as a speaker.
5. Find the common ground
A famous speaker for this is none other than former US President, Barack Obama. He has the uncanny ability to bring people together despite their differences. His method is simple, and it’s to focus on the similarities of him and his audience. This is how he manages to bring people of different backgrounds, race and ethnicity together.
So when you’re about to present, always ask yourself what are the shared beliefs, values, message or opinion you and your audience can agree on. This can help you gain their trust, flipping them from a tough crowd to future loyal fans.
Here’s a famous ‘I have a dream’ speech by Dr Martin Luther King Junior that brought people together despite their differences:
In this video, Dr King kept using the words, ‘I have a dream,’ before bringing his audience together with a common vision – the dream and the hope for a brighter future for America regardless of race, language or religion. This shared vision helped unite these people despite their differences in beliefs and values.
6. Through storytelling techniques
According to experts, recent scientific work is putting a much stronger emphasis on how stories change individuals’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviours.
It has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to data and statistics. Our brains activate on all our five senses which allows us to broaden our imagination and be part of the story itself.
If used correctly, storytelling can be a very powerful communication tool due to its ability to connect, gain the trust of and pique interest amongst the audience.
One example of a simple yet extremely effective storytelling technique is none other than ‘The Hero’s Journey Approach. This technique has a proven framework that never fails to keep your audience glued to their seats!
Here’s a video of Sir Ken Robinson talking about how school kills creativity. In the talk, he makes use of storytelling techniques to engage and hook his audience.
You’ll notice that he makes references through the story of others such as Picasso as well as his own personal stories to build rapport with his audience.
7. Ace your Q&A
It’s vital you Master the Art of Q&A. Many speakers are intimidated in this area but who wouldn’t be? It’s unchartered territory since you can’t know the questions that will be coming your way.
In short, this session will demonstrate whether you truly know your stuff.
This is the crucial moment where you either gain the trust and loyalty of your audience, or you completely lose them and your credibility. Essentially, it’s the segment of your talk where a two-way dialogue takes place. It’s not just a matter of conveying the message – it’s also receiving on your end as well.
In Q&A sessions, you may face a difficult questioner from time to time. In this setting, it’s important you know how to respond knowledgeably, calmly, and confidently. Don’t fear this obstacle but rather, embrace it. If you understand your content from the presentation, it’ll be half the battle won. All that’s left to do is to prepare questions to anticipate in advance and practice.
Summing It Up
So there you have it! These are the ways to handle and convince a tough crowd. Identify and understand the behaviours of a tough audience member so you can best approach them without compromising your credibility and image as a speaker.
Seize the opportunity to convince and switch a tough crowd with these tips:
Identify the type of tough audience members
Understand their behaviours and patterns
React and approach them accordingly
Embrace the problem and turn it into an opportunity
Don’t take things to heart and dare to address the issues or problems
Find common ground and show you understand your audience
Engage your audience through storytelling
Build your credibility through Q&A
Leave a comment below if you’ve applied these tips and if it worked for you!
Everyone is blessed with a certain level of persuasive skills. Whether it’s a salesperson convincing a customer why they should buy a product or a mother convincing her child why he needs to sleep early – persuading is something that revolves around our lives whether we realise it or not.
This applies to persuasive presentations as well. It is a speech made with the intention of selling an idea, message, service or product to the audience. Some forms of persuasive presentations include sales pitches, legal proceedings and debates.
Persuasion is an art form, an effective weapon that impresses your ideas upon the minds of listeners.
Overall, a persuasive presentation is intended to reach people, convince them and then prompt them into taking action.
Although some are born with the art of persuasion, what about those who need to acquire it through practice? Here’s a definitive guide to help you step by step on how to frame and execute a great persuasive presentation:
The 3 Step Approach to the Art of Persuasion
According to one of the most articulate speakers, Greek Philosopher Aristotle, there are three forms of rhetoric to influence people: ethos, pathos and logos. You need to understand and skilfully apply the methods found in these three elements to conduct a successful persuasive speech.
In every speech, it’s vital that as a speaker, you are knowledgeable at the topic you’ll be speaking about. This not only provides assurance to the audience that you know your content, it also shows you are able to clearly say what you need convey.
It’s important to follow these five steps so that you come in prepared and establish a favorable ethos:
1. Selecting a Topic
People are naturally interested to stories that have a hook. This also applies for a speech. This ‘hook’ is none other than a speech topic. Every speaker wants their audience to be engaged. Hence, the first step to achieve this is they need to select a good topic that will interest their audience.
A well-chosen topic is key to the success of a good speech. Brainstorming is a method that helps you generate topic ideas and it should feel less stressful than the other methods.
Once you come up with a list of potential topics, you need to identify what is a good topic depending on several factors such as who your listeners are and their interests.
Once done, start eliminating the topics one by one till you find the perfect topic. Brainstorming is a creative process. If you don’t put in the effort to produce a creative presentation, it will never touch the minds and hearts of your audience.
b) Tailor The Content of Your Presentation to Your Audience’s Needs
Understanding who you are speaking to helps make you more persuasive as a speaker. This helps determine how you can make your tone suitable for them and make the content relevant.
For example, if you are speaking to a young audience, you should find out how they speak and their capacity for understanding towards the topic. If you’ll be speaking about difficult topics like insurance, it doesn’t make sense to use a lot of technical terms or jargons since they definitely wouldn’t understand what you’re saying most of the time.
Remember, if you come into the talk without any effort to adapt to your listeners, it will be a definitive way to lose their interest. When they do not see a need to listen to your talk, how can you sell your idea in the first place?
Hence, make an effort to show that the speech was tailored especially to them. This will raise your credibility as a result and show that you’ve done your homework in advance.
Questions to ask to get yourself started:
Who will be attending your presentation?
What are their goals, motivations, beliefs and values?
How can I customise the slide images to resonate with their industry or line of work?
What are the words I can use that are relevant to them or are used in their daily conversations
c) Make It Personal
In order to change the minds of your audience, you need to win their hearts first. To do that, it’s important to add a personal touch to your topic.
One way to incorporate this is to pick a topic you are extremely knowledgeable and passionate about. It shows how much effort and time was spent on understanding and learning the topic.
This passion will naturally make it easier for you to add your own personal experiences, research, and stories. As a result, it will help your topic resonate with others as much as it resonates with you.
One example is Brene Brown’s “The Power of Vulnerability” where she spent years studying human connection. In her talk, you can see she has incorporated touches of personal experiences and stories that make the talk heartwarming.
d) Make It Interesting
Even if a topic is already interesting by itself, that does not mean you, the speaker can just stop there. Even the most fascinating topics become boring in the hands of an ill-prepared speaker. You have to spend as much time as possible in making your message interesting so that your audience will get hooked on your talk.
So try to figure out how to put a fresh and personal spin on topic – especially if it has been talked about a lot already.
2. Organise Your Content
There’s no point having a great topic with the best content and ideas if it’s not organised in a coherent manner. All it entails is a very confused audience at the end of your speech which meant you did not convey your key message successfully.
a) Create an Outline
Outlines help restructures your speech so that it is clear and concise. After you’ve decided the points you’d like to bring up, start organizing them in a way where it can smoothly transition from one to the other.
b) Inserting important key messages at the start or end of the speech
Another method is to insert the important parts at the beginning or end of your speech. According to a study done by Murdock, people recall information better in the beginning and the end of a presentation. This helps create an edge for your persuasive presentation.
3. Know Your Content Inside and Out
One of the worst sins you can commit as a speaker is to read your script off a cue card or worse – look at your slides throughout as you speak.
Not only do you sound rigid, monotonous and boring, you’ll definitely lose your audience’s interest as a result. If you cannot engage your audience to listen to you, how are you going to sell whatever that is you are speaking about?
Many tend to memorise their script word for word in an attempt to ‘know their stuff’ which is just a huge recipe for disaster.
What if you get stage fright and your mind turns blank? Or you simply cannot remember? Any hesitation on your part could sprout doubts from the minds of the audience about your speech and its contents.
Hence, focus on memorising the flow of your key points as well as the overall arching message of your speech.
According to experts, understanding the content makes it easier for you to convert ideas and concepts into your own words which you can then clearly explain to others. This allows you to speak with conviction thereby convincing your audience as well.
In order for others to have confidence in you and your message, it all needs to start with being confident in yourself first. By showing you are confident in your topic and yourself, this feeling with exude outwards towards your audience. And when they see this confidence, they’ll believe in what you have to say.
Confidence is key to making sure that you believe in yourself and that others believe in your too. Hence, the more confident you are, the lesser the reason for skeptics to doubt you and be convinced by your speech as a result.
Letting your nerves and stage fright get the better of you, however, will just show your listeners your doubtfulness and hesitation which will make it hard for them to be convinced with what you’re saying.
Confidence, however does not just come in the form of how you speak but your body language as well. This can mean having good eye contact and hand gestures to voice projection.
Pathos (Emotional Appeal):
The most eloquent speakers are found to focus the most on this component and with good reason. This is the main area to focus on when it comes to persuasive speeches because majority of people do things based on “feeling” or anything that connects them emotionally. In summary, emotional appeal is the key to persuade the audience.
Here are some ways you can connect with your audience emotionally:
1. Storytelling Techniques
You want to capture the attention of your attendees with your very first words. To do that, start by telling a story. It’s important you do not bombard them with facts and data as it has been scientifically proven that stories engage more parts of our brain as compared to hard facts.
Storytelling is one of the most effective approaches when it comes to persuading your audience to buy your idea, message, service or product. This is due to its ability to stimulate interest, increase engagement and help the audience understand what’s being said.
Hence, tell a short story to provide them with the vision of the goal. It also helps if you can make the story relatable to everyone involved so they are able to resonate with your speech. Storytelling is also extremely useful when it comes to deescalating the situation in a room full of people who may not be too keen on your ideas.
a) Hero’s Journey
There are many ways to tell a persuasive story but one of the most effective and foolproof methods is ‘The Hero’s Journey’ approach. This technique has the exact built-in mechanisms for creating the connection needed for any audience. This can result in an impactful speech that can inspire your audience to action
Described by Joseph Campbell as the The Hero with a Thousand Faces, the Hero’s Journey is the same exact tale every culture tells – just with different characters.
Typically the hero’s journey would somewhat go like this:
The hero starts out as an ordinary person.
He or she then gets a ‘call to adventure’—sometimes by choice or by circumstance.
As the hero leaves the comfort of home and family to begin the journey, he or she faces life-threatening challenges along the way.
The hero’s situation looks bleak and it further escalates to the Hero’s defeat.
Then, just when all hope seems lost, the hero finds some inner strength to win despite the odds.
If you noticed, these tales of heroes have three things in common – the problem, the solution and the reward. These three elements are always or mostly used in every hero tale and it never fails to attract the audience.
Leverage on this three step approach to help make your speech much more engaging which will empower your audience in return.
2. Make Use of These Two Persuasive Words
There are words that hold more power in swaying our decision making than others. If we can learn how to utilise them, it’ll be easier to persuade our audience:
When you’re speaking, writing or even pitching to persuade, use first-person language. That means making use of the word ‘you’.
This word not only gets your audience’s attention it also makes them feel special – like they’re a part of something. Using ‘you’ makes you sound much more conversational and friendly which makes it easier to establish a connection with your audience.
Here’s an example: “You are capable. You are strong. And you can make a change in this world” This word is powerful as it holds your audience accountable for what you’re saying and instantly makes them feel involved.
A study found that using the word ‘because’ would make people more inclined to allow someone else to do something.
Here’s a proven scenario:
Person A: “Excuse me, I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine?”
Person B: “I have 5 pages. May I use the Xerox machine, because I need to make copies?
Look at both of these sentences. Are you more inclined to allow Person A to cut the line or Person B? Studies find that only 60% would allow Person A to cut the line while a staggering 93% will do so for Person B even if the reasons are ridiculous.
This is all because they simply heard the word ‘because’ accompanied by a reason. Human brains love explanations and hence we need to know why. Why do I need that feature? How does it benefit me? So what?
Your audience thinks this way as well. Hence, provide them with the why after the ‘because’ to further convince them.
3. Reinforce Your Message
It is vital that you drive your message home. This is to ensure your audience does not lose sight of the key message of your speech. Here are some ways to help reinforce your message:
a) Power of Repetition
A study of managers in the workplace by Professors Tsedal Neely of Harvard and Paul Leonardi of Northwestern found that:
“Managers who were deliberately redundant moved their projects forward faster and more smoothly.”
Knowing this, try to apply the power of repetition in your speech to drive home your goals. Don’t rush trying to get your point across but rather, try to convey the message as many times as you can.
However, be creative in repeating your message. Do not say the exact same thing over and over again or you’ll just sound annoying. Instead, find other creative and effective ways to get the same idea across to your audience.
Using visual aids like presentation slides or images not only provide the opportunity to enhance and drive your message home, it also provides 43% added recall according to Prezi.
As humans, we are all naturally visual people – even more so when it comes to listening. A study even found that those who were provided visuals during a speech remembered 55% more than those who only heard it.
Here’s an example: A speaker is giving a talk about the severity of plastic waste. Which one of the scenarios would make you more inclined to do something about this issue?
Scenario 1: Speaker talks about why plastic is bad for the environment.
Scenario 2: Speaker shows devastating photos of the consequences when we ignore the severity of plastic waste.
Naturally, we would feel a sense of responsibility more so when a photo is provided.
Hence, make use of evocative images to stimulate emotions amongst your audience. It does not steal your audience’s attention but reinforces your key message instead. All while evoking a certain feeling in your audience which helps in persuading them to believe in your idea.
Just like imagery, colours can evoke emotions in your audience as well. Colors signify different emotions and associations.
Look at this video to help you understand how you react to different color stimuli:
d) Interactive Content
According to Time magazine, the average person has a very short attention span – they lose concentration after 8 seconds.
A study found that interactive ads were found to be twice as memorable as compared to static ads. Knowing this, you should find ways to create interactive content to further engage and persuade your audience. This can be done with the use of PowerPoint as you can add animations, transitions or even embed videos to spice up your speech.
Furthermore, recent statistics show that video content isn’t just effective, it’s also on the rise. Furthermore, 64% are willing to watch a video if it’s interactive. So if you find that your speech may be boring or full of data, try to present it in a form of an interactive video.
Here’s a video of Hans Rosling, one of the few speakers who know how to present data in a fun and engaging manner:
4. Adopt the Golden Circle Approach
In order to convince others to buy your idea, message, service or product, find out your purpose for what you’re doing.
Here’s a video of Simon Sinek, explaining how the Golden Circle approach is effective in making others buy your idea, message, service or product.
In the video, Simon Sinek mentions that many of us communicate from the outside in. This means we always start with What, How and then Why.
He explains that persuasive speakers do the exact opposite. They start from the inside out. This is also known as the ‘Golden Circle’ Approach:
Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing
How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing
What: What is the result?
One example who makes use of this approach is Apple.
Why: What is your purpose for doing what you’re doing? Their purpose is to challenge the status quo and they believe in thinking differently.
How: How you show your belief in what you’re doing? By making their products beautifully designed, simple to use and user-friendly.
What: What is the result? They happen to make great computers.
As Simon Sinek says: “People don’t buy what you do but why you do it.”
Find what you believe in and you’ll realise it’s easier to persuade your audience into buying your message and taking action upon them.
Logos (Logical Appeal):
Have you ever found yourself arguing with a friend over something you definitely know is a fact but somehow they just don’t want to believe you? This is because you lack providing facts or evidence to prove you’re right.
Logos is the final seal of act to convince your audience into buying your idea. This strategy makes use of providing evidence and reasons to support your front. Here are ways to utilise logical appeal effectively:
1. Provide Evidence
Use evidence so that your audience cannot argue or doubt your point. This is because it establishes an objective foundation to your arguments, and makes your point more than just a mere speculation, personal opinions or prejudices.
Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought the speech was engaging, the content informative and stories compelling? You’re convinced by the issue brought up but you don’t know what to do with it.
This is because the speaker forgot to include one crucial thing– the solution. Without this, your audience will think, “What do I do with all of this new information?”
As a speaker, informing is not enough – take it a step further and show the audience how they can take action. And to inspire action, solutions must be provided. Although problems hook your audience, solutions are what activates the action.
Start adopting the “How will my audience change as a result of hearing my speech?” mindset. Your speech can empower the audience if they can take at least one action because of what you’ve said.
If the audience does take action, this means you’ve successfully persuaded them since they are motivated by your message.
“That tension helps them persuade the audience to adopt a new mindset or behave differently — to move from what is to what could be. And by following Aristotle’s three-part story structure (beginning, middle, end), they create a message that’s easy to digest, remember, and retell.” –Nancy Duarte
Knowing this, you should be prepared to provide solutions to overcome any obstacles or challenges your idea may face or anticipate.
Summing it Up
And there you have it! Leverage on the 3 Step Approach – Ethos, Pathos and Logos – to create a great persuasive presentation that’ll easily get your audience to believe in what you’re saying. If you want your persuasive presentation to have that cutting edge, take a read of some of our recommended books to help boost your persuasive skills as a presenter.
Identify a good topic and research on your content thoroughly
Organise and tailor the content to your audience’s needs
So, you’ve prepared everything you can to create an impressive presentation. Whether it was finding the perfect topic, conducting thorough research or even understanding your audience demographics. You even practiced for what seemed like the millionth time, making sure you’ve calmed your nerves and stage fright so you can perform your best on stage. But, there’s a problem. Almost every speaker is doing what you did.
This may not necessarily be a bad thing, but have you ever wondered what you can do to stand out from your competitors? The answer is none other than rhetorical devices.
As cliché as it might sound, rhetorical devices are the art of language. We can’t deny how much rhetorical devices can help to enhance your presentation. Not only will it help to make your presentation much more memorable and engaging for the audience, it will also definitely be able to grab their attention.
In this article, we have prepared a list of rhetorical devices that you can incorporate so that your presentations can have that edge:
1. Rhetorical questions
Rhetorical questions are used to lay emphasis on certain points of the presentation. Even though it may have an obvious answer, no answer is expected from the audience.
I’m certain many of you have subconsciously used this phrase ‘Who cares?’ when you’re speaking. This is a rhetorical question to show that nobody actually cares. Sounds pretty harsh doesn’t it? However, that’s the main purpose of a rhetorical question, to place extra emphasis on a point.
Many presenters make use of rhetorical questions either at the start or end of the presentation.
If you wish to use it in the beginning of your speech. It will leave the audience pondering about the question which will then make them anticipate for the answer afterwards.
If you choose to use this device at the end, it will often lead to a call to action from your audience.
Also known as the rule of three, Tricolon consists of three parallel words or phrases which are placed next to each other without any interruption. The purpose of tricolon is to add a sense of wholeness, and empowerment to the presentation.
Here’s an example of a speech by Abraham Lincoln, ‘… Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.’
Many speakers across the globe make use of tricolon to conclude their presentation. Another example would be from Mark Antony’s famous speech from Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar – ‘Friends, Romans, Countrymen. Lend me your ears’.
Not only does it create a humorous effect, it is also effective in helping the audience remember the key message of your presentation. That way, they are sure to take away something from your presentation.
Alliteration is a stylistic literary device, which occurs when a number of words with the same first consonant sound are placed close together in a sentence. The use of alliteration not only helps to create a musical effect that enhances the pleasure of listening to a speech, it also creates a poetic flow to the presentation.
For example: If you are conducting a presentation on being environmentally friendly, you can make use of the famous alliteration, ‘Reuse, Reduce and Recycle’.
Another example are brands like ‘Coca Cola’ and ‘PayPal’. These brands make use of alliteration in their brand name so that it can be easily remembered by their consumers which may help to enhance sales.
This can be applied to presentations as well. Alliteration helps to make information easier to remember as it attracts the attention of the audience due to the similar sounding words, which makes it sound a little catchy.
With that being said, many people have the misconception that alliteration depends on the starting letters of a word, however do remember that it isn’t the letters, but the consonant sound.
Ever heard of phrases like this – I came, I saw, I conquered also known as Veni, Vidi, Vici?
Phrases like these are known as Anaphora. Anaphora is the repetition of certain words or phrases at the start of a sentence which can help to amplify certain key words or ideas.
The use of anaphora in presentations can create a huge impact as it emphasises key messages and ideas often with strong emotions. It also helps the audience remember your presentation content much more easily due to the repetition of words which causes anticipation for the next.
Epiphora is the opposite of anaphora. It is the repetition of words or phrases at the end of a sentence instead of the start.
For example: ‘I want pizza, she wants pizza, we all want pizza!’
Do you feel that there is an extra emphasis placed on the word ‘pizza’? Furthermore, the repetition helps to string words and ideas together to create a key focus point, which in this example is the pizza.
By using Epiphora in presentations, it will help draw the audience’s attention to the important points due to the emphasis of the repeated words.
Anadiplosis, which means reduplicate, refers to the repetition of words. This device helps emphasise words differently whereby the word at the end of a sentence is repeated at the beginning of another sentence afterwards.
Here’s an example of the lyrics from The Wanted ’s Glad You Came:
Turn the lights out now, now I’ll take you by the hand, hand you another drink, drink it if you can, can you spend a little time, time is slipping away, away from us so stay, stay with me I can make, make you glad you came.
As seen from the example above, this device helps amplify and create emphasis on the repeated word. As a result, the lyrics sounds catchy and it can easily be remembered by others.
By applying Anadiplosis in your presentation, it is able to place emphasis on key points because people tend to focus more on the repetition of words. It may also differentiate you from other presenters if used appropriately.
This brings us to the next point.
Anadiplosis is also part of Chiasmus. Chiasmus is when two or more words are balanced against each other by reversing their structures to create an artistic effect. This can also give pattern and rhythm to your presentation.
“When the going gets tough, the tough gets going.”
After reading this quote, do you find that you are more empowered by the second half of the quote? Well, I do. This is because chiasmus tend to lay stress on the second part of the sentence, and that way you’ll feel more inclined to it.
Besides that, chiasmus also gives structure and adds a poetic touch to a sentence, which helps the audience understand and remember the point much more easily, hence, adding value to your presentation.
However, be sure to not overuse it as it may confuse the audience. Whenever you are using a chiasmus, be sure to consider the relationship between the two words before turning it into the device, because sometimes, the two just wouldn’t fit.
Lastly, whenever you’re thinking of creating a chiasmus for your own use, do refer to other examples as a template and make it your own by changing either one or both keywords.
A simile is a figure of speech that compares one thing to another and is used to make a description sound more vivid.
Well, how do you identify a simile? You know you’ve identified one when you see ‘as’ or ‘like’ in the comparison. For example: ‘You were as brave as a lion’ and ‘She slept like a log’.
Similes can help to attract the attention of the audience during presentations as it encourages them to use their imagination to understand what is being presented. With the help of the comparison, the audience will also better understand the point you are trying to make as they can relate the point to the thing that you are comparing it with.
However, there is a misconception that similes are just like metaphors. The truth is, similes are like metaphors, but metaphors aren’t like similes. This brings us to the next point – metaphors.
Metaphor is a figure of speech that is used to make a comparison against another object which isn’t related but has something in common. In other words, metaphors directly state a comparison against another object. For example: ‘Time is money’. Both time and money are in no way related at all but, yet they have one thing in common: Both are valuable.
To simplify it even further, here’s another example.
Sarah and Jane are best friends. They aren’t related to one another, but they have one thing in common – Both are girls.
Do you get the gist of it? This is what differentiates metaphors and similes – whether the words used are related. If it’s not, it’s definitely a metaphor.
During presentations, metaphors can play a big part in engaging the audience as it encourages them to use their imaginations to understand what is being said to them. Also, it helps to get your audience to embrace your key message by tapping into their imagination. Lastly, transform your ideas into something that your audience can relate to by using metaphors. This way, your presentation may stand out from the rest.
A hyperbole is an unreal exaggeration of ideas used to emphasize a real situation. Hyperboles are not meant to be taken literally, it just exaggerates the subject, giving a dramatic effect.
For example: ‘He’s got tons of money’. The word ‘ton’ is used to exaggerate this statement to place emphasis on how much money he has.
Hyperboles can be used in your presentations to add emphasis to the key message by comparing it with something exaggerated. By doing so, it develops a contrast between the two subjects so that it is clearer for the audience to visualise the impact.
An oxymoron is formed when two opposite ideas are combined to create an effect that will leave a lasting impression in your audience’s mind.
The most common oxymoron phrase is formed when a noun is placed after an adjective with a contrasting meaning, for example: ‘act natural’ and ‘seriously funny’. However, the contrasting words may not necessarily have to be side by side, it can also be spaced out in a sentence, for example: ‘In order to lead, you must walk behind’.
During presentations, oxymoron adds flavor to your presentation by creating a comical and dramatic effect that literally makes no sense. The contradicting words also triggers the audience’s thoughts which leaves them to ponder about the oxymoron. By doing so, it helps to engage the audience throughout the presentation.
A personification is when a thing, idea or an animal is given human attributes. These objects are represented in a way where they have the ability to act like human beings.
Personification is also a way of using storytelling to modify your speech by personifying ideas or thoughts.
An example of personification is ‘The flood raged over the entire village’. The word “raged’ personifies the blood while also symbolizing the flood was really bad.
Personification help give a deeper meaning to your presentations which can captivate your audience. It also adds a realistic touch filled with expressions that encourages the audience to unfold a new and innovative perspective of your presentation. It can also simplify a complex subject by giving it human characteristics.
Here’s a video of Harry Baker incorporating personification into his slam poetry (0:43-4:01):
In his slam poetry, even though 59, 60 and 61 are just numbers, they were given human attributes to help him
There are two ways to view climax. Most people see it as the most intense and exciting part of something. These ‘climaxes’ are usually seen in movies and stories.
For example, in the movie ‘The Maze Runner’, when Thomas and the gladers went into the maze trying to find an escape route. During their search, some gladers fought the weird creature, also known as the grievers. Some died, and some managed to survive.
Another way of interpreting climax is when successive words, phrases or sentences are arranged in ascending order of importance and there will usually be a hierarchy between the events. For example, ‘If you think that’s bad, it gets worse.’
By using climax in presentations, it makes the audience anticipate on what is going to happen which also helps to build excitement and suspense.
By keeping the audience in suspense, it keeps them glued to their seats as well. Climax also adds a touch of drama into your presentation. Furthermore, it establishes a clear relationship of hierarchy between things. This can help the audience identify the key message of the presentation.
Irony is the contradiction between the intended meaning and the actual meaning of words used in a phrase or sentence. It may also be a situation that turns out differently from what is being expected.
In short, irony is the difference between appearance and reality.
A great example of irony is ‘The fear of long words is called ‘Hippopotomonstrosesquippedalio phobia’.’ See what I mean? It’s ironic as the term used for someone who’s afraid of long words is well, long.
Irony can create a powerful impact on the key message of your presentation as well as to create a sort of puzzle in your audience’s mind. It is also able to lighten the mood of your presentation because the two usually contradicts one another other to create a humorous effect.
Summing It Up
All in all, don’t miss the opportunity to make full use of any of these rhetorical devices so you can drive your message home. Let us know in the comments if it worked out for you!