4 Ways to Keep Your Audience Awake

            Four Ways to Keep Your Audience Awake

“And now in conclusion, EVERY BODY WAKE UP” That’s what the caption read on a cartoon I saw that showed an after dinner speaker addressing his sound-asleep audience.

If it wasn’t Will Rogers who said “Tell em what you’re gonna tell em, tell em, and then tell em what you just told em”, it should have been.”

1)  Familiarity breeds Security

Because reinforcement provides listeners with security that comes from familiarity. People don’t object to hearing what they already know, in fact, they like it. Anytime you talk about something familiar that your listeners can relate to you’re bound to see heads nodding in agreement with you, not because they are falling asleep.

It’s the same with young children, asking for you to read the same story again, they’ve heard it so often and want to hear it again, Because the repetition is reinforcing something they know and feel familiar with. The child feels comfortable and secure hearing words he’s heard before.

You may believe that reinforcement of ideas in a speech could become monotonous or boring. Not so, well let’s qualify that somewhat.

I asked a well-known world-class speaker why he gave the same talk at every occasion. He grinned and said, “Confidentially, I don’t, I’ve developed three or four good speeches I use over and over. It’s a funny thing. People who pay to hear me talk know they’re going to hear something I’ve told them before, but they must enjoy it or they wouldn’t keep coming back. I guess it’s because they agree with my ideas and want to hear me tell them again what they already know and believe”

You can present new ideas, it’s suggested that before you do, first talk to them about the known before moving on to new information, they will feel more comfortable

2) Associations

To keep your audience receptive and awake, associate. Link your ideas to situations or experiences they can accept as their own because they’ve enjoyed or experienced similar ones. Begin by asking yourself what’s happened to you that will be similar to what’s happened to your listeners, but search for experiences that are uniquely your own.

Use illustrations and tell stories about these events and experiences from your life, nothing like a story to keep them interested and awake. In fact, many well-known speakers use this technique to imply that they too, were where you are now and this is how they managed to succeed, and that anyone can do the same.

3) Know Your Audience

Start by asking yourself, “Just who will I be talking to? The demographics of the group, do they know you or is this the first time they will be listening to you.? What do they already know about the topic.? Decide upon your motive, will you be entertaining, inspiring, motivating. Informing, or a combination of these. Then find and use appropriate stories, illustrations and anecdotes to keep them interested and awake.

By way of example, Ed Forman spoke to a group of Toastmasters for an hour after lunch, also known as the “Graveyard pitch” and we could have enjoyed more. He used alliteration in his title and at the beginning of his talk. “Life is for laughing, loving and living. Not for whining, worrying and working.” Then he broke his talk up into 6 sections, used humor and good illustrations to underscore each of the 6 parts to his message and entertained us as a true professional. On analysis, he gave us six speeches in one, and we were all still awake.

4)  You’re only Human

Remember, we are all human, and it’s the humanness in others that makes them appealing, so we may use personal stories that are universally appealing because they are so human and normal. It also keeps your audience awake as they wonder what you will be confessing to next.

So, if you are reinforcing what your audience understands, associating your experiences with theirs, approaching them knowing who they are, knowing what you expect to accomplish, telling them again and again what you have already told them, you can summarize by saying. “And now in conclusion without having to add “EVERYBODY WAKE UP.

A foot note of interest, did you know that in 19th century England, it was common practice in churches, for deacons to wake sleeping members in the congregation with a long pole which the used to prod the offenders head to wake him up. Recently I heard a preacher lament that today’s people are so stressed you hardly ever see a person fall asleep in church any more, although the recordings of some preachers’ sermons could be played to insomniacs at night to help them fall asleep!

To your speaking success

Martin Louw

Think and grow wealthy, healthy and wise.



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