Captivate Audiences: 4 Public Speaking Master Techniques

Captivate Audiences: Public Speaking Cover

What pops into your mind when you hear the names, Marlon Brando and Al Pacino?

Godfather and Godfather.

Right, so maybe that wasn’t the best lead-in. There is something else that ties these two titans of acting together. Each of them is famously known for their approach to their craft. They have both dedicated themselves to a performance style called method acting.

In case you are not familiar, here is a definition:

Method Acting is a range of techniques for training actors to achieve better characterizations of the characters they play. This philosophy was a part of the theatrical realist movement and based on the idea that great acting is a reflection of “truth” conveyed both internally and externally through the actor.

In essence, this style demands that the actor attempts to think, feel and behave as the character they wish to portray.

Now hold on, don’t worry. You did not mistype the URL. This is still a blog about public speaking. I will attempt to connect this up for you.

The very best speakers are able to pull you into a talk. They weave their passion, stories, words and actions in such a way that you as a listener, feel engrossed with what they are saying. The very best speakers accomplish this so effectively that they are able to seemingly suspend time and spirit you away from everything in your life for just that moment. They flat out captivate audiences. 

Powerful stuff huh? How do they accomplish this? More importantly, how can you accomplish this? You can start by clicking the image below to get my free “Captivate Audiences” Workbook! 

Click here to download my CAPTIVATE AUDIENCES WORKBOOK

Now, in addition, this post is ALL about channeling your inner Brando to captivate audiences in your next presentation, whether it be at the office, a conference or online speaking engagement. I will be giving you the skills and knowledge needed to be able to pull your audience into a shared moment.

To start, let me say that by no means do I endorse acting for a public speaker. Authenticity is the name of our game. However, there are certainly elements of performance that can be useful to a presenter.

I would like you to think back to the definition of method acting I provided to you earlier. Scroll back up to re-read it if you have to. Now, take a look at a new discipline of study I just invented “Method Public Speaking”:

Method Public Speaking is a range of techniques for training speakers to achieve better characterizations of themselves and their experiences. Great speaking is a reflection of “truth” conveyed both internally and externally through the speaker.

Pretty similar right? Well, as you may have sensed, I simply substituted a few words out and replaced them with others that fit our objectives. At the core of both definitions, however, is this idea of “truth” shining through from one’s inner self through to the outer. Your success or failure to captivate audiences will largely hinge on this. 

This process and its end result are the GOLD we are after. Sharing this truth allows for a deep and powerful connection between speaker and listener.  

I want to share four proven techniques that accomplish this said objective. 


1.    Storytelling

So much of speaking hinges on one’s ability to do this well. Stories work for any type of presentation whether they be for conferences, seminars, boardrooms, pitches or within sales. They need not be long either. They key is that they relate to your overall message.

To use a story to create a moment, there are some very specific things we can do:

  • Vividly describe conflict using the 5 W’s. Detail the problem by answering to the WHO, WHAT, WHERE, WHEN, WHY, HOW.
  • Leverage the principal of the empathy telescope. This is the notion that it is easier for us as humans to relate to one person rather than masses of people. When telling a story, key in on one person or one thing and project out from there.
  • Tell the story as it is happening. Pay careful attention to verb tenses and try to set the story in the present moment as much as possible. Incorporate words that are rich with description and feeling.
  • Recreate Dialogue. This can be the actual dialogue between people who are involved in the story or even internal dialogue.

Now, I understand those bullet points unto themselves may not mean much to you without an example. So what you will find at the end of this post is a link to a video that encapsulates all of the techniques covered. If you feel a bit unsure, relax. It’ll all come together, I promise. 


2.   Use your Body   

Everyone knows that gestures are an important element within presentations. Just how important you ask? I’d like to draw reference to a study that aimed to decipher what made a TED talk successful versus average. More specifically, what made one talk go viral and another to remain stuck with relatively low viewer ratings.

The researchers defined a very successful TED talk as one that reached views of more than 7 million people. Talks that were stuck around 120,000 views were considered less successful. The research wanted to find out what differences there were between the two talks.

One thing that was discovered was that the super successful talks had speakers that averaged about 465 hand gestures while the less engaging speakers topped out around 272 gestures.

My take is that these movements helped the speaker parlay what they were communicating into something deeper and more meaningful. I am thinking true audience connection. I am thinking of messages that were moving enough for them to be shared. I am also thinking that at least a few of these gestures were tied into a story that speaker was telling.  

In partnership with the art of storytelling, the use of your body is another element to create magical connections. Words alone will not have the desired effect on an audience. The words forming the story must resonate powerfully. This can be achieved through strategic movements that compliment your spoken words.

A skilled speaker will bring words to life through the use of gesture and physicality.

This is not to say that speakers should simply incorporate gestures for the sake of doing so. No, not at all. Gestures must be tied into the message and story. They should be enhancing the understanding of a feeling. If not, they risk detracting from your communication. When harnessed the right way, these movements can really make a significant difference in moving a listener and captivating audiences. 


3.   Vocal Variety

The third element in being able to convey inner truth is through the use of your voice. Words are important as are motions and movements. However, the actual variety in your voice as far as things like pitch, tone and pace combine to make a big difference too.

Let me refer back to the same study on effective TED talks. This study also discovered that high vocal variety correlated with high view counts. Speakers delivering the most popular talks had 30.5% higher vocal variety.  

Again, let me go out on a limb here, but I am thinking that these effective presenters probably incorporated stories. They probably played with vocal elements to enhance their stories too.

Quickening our pace heading into a climactic point of a story, dropping our voice down to a near whisper in another moment are but two examples of how vocal variety can help transform mere words into something deeper and more powerful. 


4.   Emotional Resonance   

This is the last element I will cover today as far as learning how to captivate audiences. As a speaker, being able to truly get in touch with your own words in a moment means that you are able to recapture an emotion or feeling.

In sharing a particularly happy moment to an audience, a skilled speaker will most likely drop in a genuine smile at the most opportune time to drive home the words he or she speaks. A physical look of anguish combined with words is much more effective than mere syntax. Combining words and true emotion is the key and wins every time. Delivering words devoid of real feeling will ensure that messages fall flat.  


These four elements when combined and done well, will put the audience into a state which will allow for the magic of deep audience connections to occur.

Now, I know this post has been quite heavy and somewhat abstract at times. Therefore, if you would like to solidify your understanding, I highly recommend you check out the following TED talk by astronaut Chris Hadfield.

You will notice how Chris adeptly sews together the elements of storytelling, effective body language, vocal variety and emotional resonance to maximize impact. In combining these things he is able to transport the audience in and out of his world–even for just seconds at a time. The raw words he uses to describe and explain are brought to life. 

I would venture to guess that most of you who listened to this talk were moved to some degree. His views would also indicate this. This all speaks to the power of being able to reflect one’s inner self to the outer world.  In doing so, you will be able to transport audiences to a deeper place of connection and understanding.

I promise you that the actual development of this skill is not as difficult as it would seem. As always, I am here for you. As noted earlier, I have created yet another handy dandy workbook to allow you to wrap your head around some of these concepts today.

The workbook itself will allow you to practice these skills, as well as make notes for how to incorporate these techniques into any presentation you need to give. I must add that these techniques are just as applicable to business meetings, conferences and sales as they are to a stage like TED. 

SO what are you waiting for? Where will you transport your audience the next time you speak? Grab my Captivate Audiences Workbook below and let’s get on with developing you into an intriguing public speaker.

Click here to download my CAPTIVATE AUDIENCES WORKBOOK

As always, I’d be honored if you shared your comments or felt inspired enough to blast any part of this post out into the social sphere!