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One of the main differences between an average speaker and a good speaker is that a good speaker possesses the ability to engage with people and really capture their attention. Good speakers are aware of how to make a connection with their audience. Here are a few tips to help you really engage with your audience:

Gratitude is always the best place to begin

Any and every speaking opportunity is an honour. Whether it is a seminar or an awards presentation, thank the audience for taking the time to show up and listen to you.

Be prepared

Even if you can improvise or “wing it” with the best of them, do a complete run through in advance, and prepare a written list of key points.

Lead with your best stuff

Make an entrance and put your best point forward straight away. Start with your best story, your funniest joke, your guiding theory etc. Don’t make them wait to see you shine. Get the audience behind you from the very beginning.

Keep it interesting

When you prepare your talk, think about how important a book’s first paragraph is; if it doesn’t grab you, you’re likely to put it down. The same principle goes for your speech: from the beginning, you need to intrigue your audience.

Know who you’re talking to

Research your audience. You won’t always be presenting or pitching to your target audience or even to people you “like” so find the common ground and focus on the relevant points.

Even if you are tired, don’t show it

Never open with a comment about being tired or fatigued. Get up there and smile, no matter what. You can collapse when you get off stage.

Plan your finish

Wrapping up can be the hardest part of a talk because you’ve either used up all of your good stuff, have gone over time, or have space to fill. Prepare a little golden nugget for the end so that you can leave on a high note.

Believe that people are rooting for you

Every single person watching and listening to you wants you to be amazing. They want a great experience. No one likes to see someone fail. They really do want you to win – believe in that and your presentation will go well.