6 Effective Public Speaking Tips to Capitivate Any Audience [Updated May 2024]

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Walking onto a stage can be daunting.

Within just a few seconds, you need to capture the attention of your audience before they drift off to check their phones or start pondering their dinner plans. We’ve all experienced moments when we were stuck in the front row, nodding along out of politeness, wondering when a talk would end.

Here are six compelling public speaking strategies to captivate the attention of any audience

1)   Lead with a Powerful Story

When you lead with a powerful story, your powerful story – a hero’s journey of failure and triumph – and show us that you are standing on this stage despite your struggles, we are hooked. We want to hear more from you so that we can be inspired to move past our struggles and be more powerful in the world, too.

Kevin Pearce, an Olympic snowboarder who was slated to beat Shaun White in the 2010 Olympics, shared his very personal story from my TEDx Lincoln Square stage about waking up totally unable to move after he experienced a traumatic brain injury during a training run. The audience couldn’t do anything except stay laser-focused on what Kevin was saying because he was literally standing on stage before us, able to walk and share this powerful story. The story is super important.

2)   Share a Startling Statistic

Kick off your talk with an eye-opening statistic to immediately draw in your audience. For instance:

  • In literacy: “Over 36 million adults in the US cannot read above a 3rd-grade level.”
  • In urban issues: “Every single night, more than half a million people in America experience homelessness.”
  • In health: “The average American consumes 13 pounds of ice cream each year.”

Such statistics are not only surprising but also spark curiosity and concern, encouraging your audience to listen eagerly for solutions or explanations.

3)   Use Amazing Visuals

Susan Austin is wheelchair-bound, so when she shows us the amazing visual of her scuba diving in her wheelchair during her TedTalk, it is impossible to look away. Such extraordinary images make your presentation unforgettable and keep your audience engaged.

4)   Stir Curiosity

Take a cue from Steve Jobs’ 2015 Stanford commencement speech, where he mentioned how close he was to experiencing a college graduation for the first time. This revelation about one of the greatest innovators—who never completed college—naturally piques interest and hooks the audience into wanting to learn more about his unique journey.

5)   Incorporate Authenticity and Theatricality

So many speakers have not considered using film or voiceovers during their talks. Tonya Harris, a Speaker Who Dares, shared a text from her daughter hiding in the bathroom at school because of being bullied. She went on to share that her daughter also wrote a poem about bullying. She shared both of these things with me before her talk.

I suggested that Tonya walk onto the stage with a slide of the text message, followed by her daughter’s voiceover reading the poem. After she did that, Tonya began her talk. This was extremely authentic while also being incredibly theatrical. The audience was hooked, riveted, and moved beyond anything they could’ve been prepared for.

6)   Reference Historical Events

Connecting your talk to a well-known historical event can resonate deeply with your audience. Whether it’s WWII, the Vietnam War, 9/11, or the recent global pandemic, these references ground your message in shared experiences and collective memory.

Employing these tactics—leading with a strong story, using impactful statistics, engaging with vivid visuals, arousing curiosity, incorporating theatrical elements, and invoking historical contexts—will ensure that you truly captivate your audience.

Learn More About Tricia Brouk!

Tricia Brouk is an award-winning director, writer, producer and public speaking coach. As an expert in the art of public speaking, she puts speakers on TEDx and other big stages. She also hosts The Big Talk, an award-winning public speaking podcast on iTunes.

Tricia can give help you become the confident, inspirational speaker you are meant to be. If you’re looking for a speaker coach who can get you to the next level, reach out to Tricia Brouk today! In the meantime, check out her YouTube page for more public speaking tips and tricks.

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