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Ask a Speaker: How Can I Engage an Audience?

April 4, 2013

speaker panel

The “ask a speaker series” consists of a series of posts, each one designed to answer a common problem people face when speaking in public. We ask our top speaking experts, with almost a century of public speaking experience between them, how it’s done.

The key to being a successful speaker is engaging an audience, but the tough part for all of us, is knowing exactly how. In this post, we ask our experts how they do it.

George Jerjian (Marketing Professional, Past President 2001-2):
Generally, I try to engage an audience with one of the following:
1 Tell them a story
2. Start with a quotation as a hook
3. Make a declaration that – is suitable to my point – and grabs their attention.

Vaughan Evans (Strategy Consultant, Member since 1990):

Don’t lecture, entertain!

David West (Retired Benefits Consultant, Toastmaster for over ten years):

1. Make sure speech subject meets need/ interests of audience
2. Grab attention by a good opening, e.g., a question, quotation, little known fact  or a story (personal if possible).
3. Don’t use too many long words or sentences, use pauses, vary pace and pitch of voice
4. Use humour as and when it fits into what you are saying.
5. Have a brief summary and strong ending: e.g.,  a call to action or a question  (“what are you going  to do about ….?).

Jakub Pawlowski (National Speech Competition Runner Up, London Division Governor of Toastmasters International):

Whatever your topic, ask yourself the question: “why should my audience care about it?” and in your speech highlight the answer to that question. You should be also passionate about this topic and let that passion come out in your speech. If I can see that the speaker is not interested in what they’re talking about, I switch off immediately. And the opposite is true – if they’re passionate I listen attentively to discover the reason behind it.

Mark Yansen (Contest Winner and Corinthians Vice President Education 2012-13):

1. Ask a question to get a response from the audience.
2. Make a joke to get some laughs.
3. Tell an interesting story.
4. Make good eye contact with your audience.
5. Choose a topic that can grab your audience’s interest.
6. Make sure you start well to grab them from the very beginning.


Have you got a question to ask our panel. Feel free to post any questions in the comments below, or contact us at with your public speaking related questions.

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