Ten Ways to Win (and Keep) Your Audience’s Attention

Stewart Bewley

Have you ever seen Whose Line Is It Anyway? Comedians we know and love take suggestions from the audience and improvise scenes – to entertain us and them. It is off the cuff, free-flowing and – if someone asked you to do it – terrifying. This is improvisation at a level way outside an average person’s comfort zone.

To be successful in any meeting you have to be able to improvise because you are dealing with humans, not robots. Sometimes you have to improvise. I am not suggesting jumping on a table (like I did as a supply teacher) and singing to your boss/investor/team, and I am not suggesting you should become a comedic impresario like the comedy actors of Whose Line Is It Anyway – but I am talking about being prepared. Here are ten ways to prepare for the moment of improv, for when the cameras roll...

Setting the scene online

01 Think about your background

Have a clean, crisp, real, unblurred background (yes – actually real – not fake Barbados)

02 Smile

Easy. Turn up with a smile.

03 Set your amera angle

Make sure your camera angle is just slightly looking down on you

04 Turn off the mute

Unmute yourself and say “hi” (that point alone could actually transform every online meetings you have)

Setting the scene offline

05 Be present

Stand up to greet someone, plant two feet on the floor and smile with your eyes. Plant your feet on the ground and take a breath in. It slows you down to be present to the person in front of you.

06 Shake hands

Greet someone with a firm friendly handshake. The hand is either equal to the other’s hand (turned sideways), or turned upwards, showing you are accepting them. NEVER extend your hand turning downwards. It is domineering, aggressive and unkind. NEVER be a limp fish – people feel physically sick after those hand shakes. If the culture doesn’t allow you to shake hands, then obviously don’t do it.

07 Listen well

Listen with your body. It’s amazing what people can pick up on – disinterest or interest. If your joy is so deep it doesn’t actually reach your face that can be a problem. Bring shallow joy so it is always there. When you are listening to them even saying their name, lean in a little with your body.

Lead with confidence

Let me take you back to the supply teaching moment. The scene was set. I was standing on the table. Pupils were starting to look at me. Some were still trying to ignore me. I had to lead with confidence. I had to sing in a high, falsetto voice: ‘She take my money, well I'm in need.’ If I had been slightly nervous, or faltered on any word, it would have failed. And it would have been so embarrassing. I would have been left high and dry, standing on a table, feeling awkward. But I nailed it. And so can you. Here ‘s how you lead with confidence:

08 Make the first sentence count

You may be saying your name, you may be sharing an agenda, you may be straight into the topic. The content only works if the delivery is good. So make that first sentence count not just in the words you say but the WAY you say it.

09 Speak shorter, speak louder

Speak in a short sharp sentence and be quicker and louder. In fact, be 5% louder. Most people get told to slow down, but that is because their sentences are too long. Keep the sentence short and speed up.

10 Start as you mean to go on

Carry on your presentation in that style. When I only have 30 minutes with a company I will spend most of the time working on the first 30 seconds. Because if you can get the first 30 seconds right, the rest can take care of itself. It is all about embedding it in your body and voice so you can be your own coach. So get the first 30 seconds Right  with short, sharp sentences, a smile, increased volume and increased speed and you are onto a winner.

Stewart Bewley

Stewart founded Amplify back in 2011 from an acting background, believing that if you unlocked people’s voices you would unlock their story and their businesses would thrive.

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