It’s that time of year again, when Bostonians make plans for the Fourth of July celebration on the Esplanade. I know the celebration in our nation’s capital is allegedly the be-all-end-all of extravaganzas, but still, the city of Boston rocks on the 4th.

Neil Diamond singing Sweet Caroline is pretty great.  But the hands-down fan favorite is Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture – with its cannons and bells, the crescendos, the slargandos and smorzandos – it gets your heart pumping and your synapses firing.  At the end, when you hear “da-da-da-da-da-da-da-DA-bum-bum” your blood is singing in your veins.

Even though we mere mortal speakers will never have our own cannon fire or Keith Lockhart telling us exactly what to say and when to say it, we can do something about the energy in the room. We can liven things up no matter what the topic.  Here are three ways to fire up your audience:

  1. Take a moment when you first begin to look people in the eye and smile.  It’s amazing how many speakers begin their talk while looking down. Once you have made a connection, then say something to hook them in. A compelling statistic, a powerful question, a personal disclosure.  One of my clients starts his speech with the following sentence: “I hate vegetables with a white hot passion.” He says it with feeling. What’s the response he gets?  Eyes up, smart phones put away, where’s he going with this…
  2. Use your voice.  Change your tone, your volume, your intonation.  Variety is what keeps people focused and interested. Having compelling content is important too, but you could be announcing the merit increases for FY13 and if you speak in a monotone voice, people will check out as soon as they hear the number.  And you were expecting them to grasp the 15 requirements and caveats that factor into getting the highest percentage.
  3. Break down the physical and emotional walls between you and the audience. The physical barrier is broken by moving closer. Get out from behind the podium. The emotional barrier is broken by bringing your whole self to the presentation, not just your head. Another way is to identify an obstacle that everyone can overcome together. Think about the recent Occupy Wall Street movement that stirred the fire in the belly of thousands of people worldwide.

Igniting the full attention and excitement of your audience takes practice and preparation. But once you’ve experienced the Triple Chocolate Celestial Peppermint Jubilee Blast, you’ll never want to go back to plain old vanilla ice milk.  Da-da-da-da-da-da-da-DA-bum-bum!

Happy Fourth!

– Barbara