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Awaken Your Audience: How To Seize Attention In Public Speaking

Apr 22, 2008
We present to shift the audience's perspective. We want to sell... we want to educate... we want to motivate.

None of this can happen until you awaken your audience and get their attention.

How to awaken your audience:

Surprise them. Attention is captured by the unusual. Do Something Different! When the audience knows what you are about to say, or how you are about to say it, they're ahead of you. Gradually their minds move on to something else.

Ways to awaken your audience:

Catch the audience off guard by sweeping them into active participation. Employ a dramatic gesture at an unexpected moment. Reveal an interesting prop, or use an object in the room in an unusual way. Tell a story about an experience you had that reveals something personal about you. Move with a sudden dynamic burst. Release a sound from your voice heretofore unheard. Make a percussive sound by clapping, stomping a foot or hitting your hand on a table. Use an unusual facial gesture. Tease the audience. Stop and be silent.


We communicate with all kinds of gestures. Whether hailing a taxi or blowing a kiss, the meaning of the gesture is understood accurately and quickly.

Actions Speak Louder than Words

Early on we learn that a person's body often speaks more truthfully than their words. If the speaker's behavior does not align with their words, which do you trust?

Imagine someone talking to you about an important topic. Imagine how much they would communicate if at just the right moment they:

Blushed Blinked Yawned Looked away Started shaking Instinctively we know to trust body language above spoken words. People carefully arrange their words to put their best foot forward; less frequently do they successfully monitor their physical behavior.


Often, the most important movement is its complete absence: calm, powerful stillness. Unfocused extraneous movement decreases your power and credibility, and can distract the audience from your message.

When you are not making a gesture or movement that supports your missive:

Choose stillness.

When you can confidently stand perfectly still in silence, the audience tends to interpret is as power and control.


Tips to Successful Use of Gestures, Movement and Stillness

Be Selective

Craft gestures to match your key points. Don't use the same gesture over and over. Avoid walking and talking (or your movements may obscure your words). Larger movements are best done before or after a point, while gestures can be used before, during or after speaking.

Be Specific

Practice more precise and differentiated movement. Don't just generally wave your arms. Chose dynamic, specific movements and gestures that elucidate or emphasize what you are conveying.

Be Surprising

Use varied rhythms and move at unexpected moments to gain maximum audience alertness. For example, don't always gesture at the end of a sentence or point.

Be Still

Practice the power of stillness. Don't fidget. Don't wander. Don't rock nervously back and forth. Stillness is extremely powerful, especially when contrasted with purposeful movement.

Be Subversive

Whatever gesture patterns you establish, mindfully break with them and create an ongoing variety of gestural expression.
About the Author
The Henderson Group trains and coaches business professionals in the art of communication and presentation through our experiential methodology. Since 1990, The Henderson Group has helped Fortune 500 companies worldwide improve employee productivity and business results through the development of communication skills. You can find us online at SpeakFearlessly.net and HendersonGroup.com or Attend A Workshop
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