As promised, and for those who didn't zip over to the contest site to read it, the blog entry is below. I didn't win, but the contest was more about who had the largest network to vote for them, not who wrote the best blog. But it was fun to compete!
What's the biggest difference between a truly dynamic and memorable speaker and one who is, well, not? From my seat in the 22nd row, I would say that it is the speaker's ability to engage the audience. The most interesting topic in the world can put you to sleep if the speaker does not engage you in his or her presentation.
Think of the typical conversations you have on any given day. How much of a conversation do you remember when the person you are speaking with is talking at you, rather than engaging you in discourse? We would all prefer having someone talk with us, not at us. Engaging speakers have learned how to speak with their audience. They pull you into their topic, often asking rhetorical questions designed to make you feel that you're a part of a conversation. Even though the question is not answered by you directly, you begin think about what your answer would be, instantly involving you in the presentation.
What other methods can you use to engage your audience? Visual aids are sometimes effective, but you should try large, colorful types of aids and refrain from using boring power point presentations. If you've ever been lulled into la-la-land by a speaker who read from his text-filled power point, you already know why that's not the way to go. Try doing or saying something startling or unexpected. It doesn't have to be loud, but it should be abrupt. I once began singing in the middle of speech, which really inspired the audience to pay attention to what I was saying. Demonstrations are also attention getting, especially if you choose someone from the audience to help you. Humor is a great way to jump start interest in your speech, but you should practice the funny stories or punch lines. Nothing kills your speech faster than a poorly delivered or distasteful joke.
There are numerous ways to encourage your audience to become involved in what you're presenting. For more ideas, watch recorded speeches and pay close attention to the methods those speakers use to keep your attention. If you have a fear of speaking in public, join a speaking group, like Toastmasters International, where you can practice until speaking to a group becomes less frightening. Remember that the ability to present your ideas and products to an audience can be your number one marketing tool. Don't you think it's worth the time and effort to improve your speaking skills and techniques?