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A speech is a conversation between you and the audience. It may last 5 minutes or 50 minutes, so you don’t want to lose them. Many of the same elements of a one on one conversation also apply to giving a speech. Eye contact is crucial. You may have heard to focus on a dot on the back wall if you are nervous…HA! What a load of crap. You fool no one by doing that and inevitably, someone in the audience will turn around to see at what you are looking. “Picture your audience naked”. Ever heard that one? I think it is a great idea to picture your audience naked, but it won’t help you give a better speech. I have found that the best way to engage an audience is by making one on one eye contact with individuals or small groups within the room. When you speak to individuals, you are forcing them to focus and respond to what you are saying even if that response is a nod or smile.
I was watching the Country Music Awards show years ago and Garth Brooks was receiving the award for entertainer of the year. Garth steps up to the microphone hat in hand and begins to say a few words. From the balcony a fan yells “I love you Garth”. Garth Brooks looked up to the balcony and said “I love you too”. The whole balcony erupted in cheers. Why? Because when he focused on that section of the room in a meaningful way, he made the entire balcony feel included. That was an aha moment for me that has been reinforced over the years as a speaker. There are two entities in the room, you and the audience. When you engage individuals or small sections of the room with a meaningful interaction, you are creating a intimate connection with the audience that will pull them on your side. It is much easier to speak in front of friends.