Keeping Their Attention
In the October 2000 column I said
that inexperienced speakers often start well, but fail to save
interesting material for later in the speech. Several folks have asked
me to talk more about how to keep audience attention throughout the
speech. Last month's column
discussed how to use humor. Another way is effective use of examples.
What makes an example effective?
- Clarity. If the meaning is not clear to your
audience, or the inference or connection to the point uncertain,
don't use it. Examples should clarify, not confuse.
- Relevance. Some examples are interesting and
illustrative. Unfortunately they are irrelevant. In their
desire to tell a new story or present an interesting piece of
information, some speakers use stories that don't relate to the
point being made.
- Interest. Keep your audience in mind. Ask
yourself if the example will interest them. For example:
In discussing leadership with a military audience I might use a
story about General Douglas Macarthur, with a religious group I
might use one about Moses, with an educational organization I might
use an anecdote concerning US Secretary of Education, Dr Rod Paige.
- Personal. Personal experience (things that happened
to you) or concrete examples with place names and situations hold an
audience's attention and are easier to listen to and remember than
abstract examples. They are also generally easier for you, the
speaker, to remember and use.
- Brevity. If you are giving a ten-minute speech, you
will most likely not want to use an eight-minute example. If you do,
it had better be good.
Remember that after gaining the attention of the audience, the
to hold it. Use of clear, relevant, interesting, personal, and
brief examples is one way.