Keep Your Audience Awake!
By Emily Sanders
The smartest course for a speaker to follow is the rule that a straight line is the shortest distance between two points. The best way of developing a speech is to focus on the one theme or thought behind the talk and drive relentlessly towards it. One of the reasons why this is a winning strategy is because most audience members cannot concentrate for the duration of a speech because of a number of distraction - such as other attendees, noise and most importantly the thoughts in his/her head. A speaker should not only ensure that his/her speech is clear and easy to follow, the speaker should also ensure that breaks are provided during the speech.
Many speakers have started injecting break sessions or even mini exercise sessions during long speech to ensure they keep the audience alert at all times. Promoting interaction with other audience members is another excellent way to maintain your audience's attention. Group exercises are excellent at promoting interaction and keeping audience members alert. All these things are important to changing the pace of the speech and will help hold the interest and attention of the audience.
Not allowing interaction or breaks is like inflicting a punishment to your audience. The average person will can take so much "punishment before escaping to more mental gymnastics or worst by falling asleep.
The speaker who wants a completely relaxed audience will relate quite a number of attention-getters during the course of his/her speech. The story is told of Mark Twain when he was to make a speech in front of a College audience. He began with this story: "When I was coming up in the car with the very kind young lady who was delegated to show me the way. She asked me what I was going to talk about. I said I wasn't sure. I said I had some illustrations and I was going to bring them in, but that I hadn't the faintest notion what they were going to illustrate."
The talented Mark Twain had many illustrations and humorous stories but he also had the rare ability and talent to center them around some intelligent observation so that he was not only entertaining by he left a message that made his talk worth while. What's the value of this illustration for a junior speaker? Simple, it may be dangerous to bring a story, illustration or anecdote merely to break the monotony of the speech or offer a diversion. For this reason, every illustration, example or outside reference, brought into the speech must be appropriate and must link in some way to the main theme of the speech or the development of that theme.
A speaker must introduce diversions which will help the speech rather than hurt it. And which will serve to help the audience concentrate on the principal subject rather than lose interest in it. Stories and anecdotes may be used as examples to illustrate a point or help develop the ideas the speaker is offering.