Speaking Engagement? How to Hook Your Audience

What’s worse than a rude audience when you’re speaking to a live audience at a conference or sales meeting?

A polite one. They smile, make eye contact, but their brains are busy entertaining thoughts of anything but you!

Naturally, you can’t guarantee that every audience member will be 100% focused on you, but here are two proven strategies increase the odds they will.

Write Your Own Introduction

Your presentation begins with your Introduction, not when you start talking. So … write your own, and give it to the Host to deliver. They’ll appreciate it, and you get off to a strong start. What’s a good intro look like?

  • Keep it short. Don’t recite your resume. Highlight relevant experience that can be summarized in 15-20 seconds.
  • Insert a teaser. Insert at least one benefit that the audience will derive from your talk. This keeps people from checking their phone.
  • Review pronunciations. Flag tricky words and review with the host.
  • Make it appropriate. Who’s the focus of your talk? You? Your Company?  Hint: It’s not always about you.


We’re a nation of mobile-holics. During the first few moments of your talk, the audience decides if you’re worth their time and attention. Millennials do this routinely with social media. You need to “grab” them intellectually or emotionally … or both.  Here are some suggestions.

  • Provocative statements. Say something surprising. “By this time next year, 5 of you in this room will be dead.” (beat) “Statistically speaking, that is.“
  • When it comes to meaningful and fun quotations, the Internet is your friend. But be careful.  As Abraham Lincoln said, “The internet is not always a reliable source of facts.”
  • Stories & Anecdotes. Everyone loves a good story. The best ones keep the listener in suspense. Find an appropriate one. “Imagine my panic three weeks ago, on March 26th, when I was awakened at 3:00 a.m. by a phone call … from a client!”
  • Tough questions. Ask an unanswerable question … then answer it! Conflict/resolution is as old as the hills because it works. “What goes on in the mind of a soldier who–after years living as a POW–returns home to find themselves unable to relate to family and friends?”
  • Use technology, or a simple show of hands. Polls involve everyone, shows you value the audience’s opinion, and generate meaningful metrics. “Please raise your hand if you have needed tech support in the last 12 months.”
  • Oprah Winfrey famously illustrated her dramatic weight loss by pulling a wagon of animal fat equal to her weight loss onstage. It’s an image not soon forgotten. Her “prop” told the whole story. Literal, analogous, or direct, a well-chosen prop can create a powerful hook for your whole presentation. “You may be wondering why I’m wearing this crash helmet?”
  • If you can show a product in action, do it. Nothing beats a live demonstration to capture the audience’s attention, prove the item’s effectiveness, and get them involved directly. “Who would like to try it for themselves?”

When you use these types of engagement tactics, your presentations will have greater impact, you’ll have more fun, and audiences may begin to look forward to your next presentation.

And wouldn’t that be nice?