07 February 2018

How to Be One of Our Best Speakers – Winning Over the Hearts (and Minds) of Your Audience

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Having watched countless presentations ranging from piling and deep foundations to Artificial Intelligence, read volumes of feedback across almost every industry event, and spent countless hours networking and researching, it’s pretty clear what makes the most compelling presentation.

As a rough guestimate, I would have seen around 400 presenters over 22 events.

And regardless of audience feedback, I’m a person with only surface knowledge of the topics we cover, so to be engaged by a speaker from an industry which is pretty foreign to me is a big ask.

***Full disclaimer – the opening remarks are enough pressure to spin me into a shy, nervous panic and make me crumble, and that is only a matter of minutes on stage. So hats off to the rest of you who bear 30 minutes of it, before being put on the spot with impromptu and often demandingly specific questions for another 10.

The thing is, you either have it or you don’t - humour on stage that is. And most of it comes from confidence. However, humour is probably the last thing on your mind when you are standing vulnerably in front of leading executives for 40 minutes convincing them you are worth listening to.

It’s a great icebreaker, but not a necessity. In my humble opinion, listeners want 3 things:


You don’t have to be a stand-up comedian to win over the audience’s hearts with humour.

Whether you were the ’class clown’ or not, if you stand up there with the intention of enjoying yourself and act as though you are having a one-on-one light-hearted conversation with the audience (interlaced with serious, meaningful insights), your authenticity and quirks are bound to shine through and ensure you’re seen in an endearing light. Not only this, your audience will connect with you and remember a lot more of what you say. It’s hard to relax on stage, but if you do, it’s bound to pay off.

I’m hooked as soon as I see someone is passionate about what they do. I want what they have. It’s human nature to want to be excited about something – and it makes you want to hear more to figure out why they’re so enthusiastic about this topic.

It’s incredibly contagious, everyone has the inherent ability, and no one can resist its charm.
Passion aside, do a show of hands, prompt them with questions to discuss with the person next to them, make them feel included.

It’s kind of an obvious one, but people want golden nuggets. The ‘Aha!’ moments that just click and help all the pieces of the puzzle connect. They want to see themselves in your story and link parts of what you have done, or the mistakes you have made, to their experience to help navigate the next part of their journey. Future thinking, opinion, imagination, anything thought-provoking is absolutely key in being remembered as insightful.

Don’t hold back with sharing your vision, people crave a bit of dreaming big.
But then you also need to balance this with proof.

As great as vision is in winning over your audience, there also need to be cold, hard facts, practicality and measurable past wins to give you credibility.

The old adage ‘the proof is in the pudding’, meaning you can only judge the quality of something after you have tried, used, or experienced it, is very relevant here.

Which leads me to the final factor:


All we want is for you to drop the act that everything has worked out successfully and instead, air the dirty laundry.

We are all human. It’s actually a badge of honour to have failed, and failed fast, these days. To have tried something new and had the ability to look at why it failed, then have the guts to share that with your peers is bigger picture action and collaboration.

It’s refreshing in a world of facades to be brave enough to be transparent and speak openly. As much as you think it will bruise your professional image, these days, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Written by: Gracie Fea

Originally from NZ, Gracie worked as a Broadcast Journalist for a few years before moving to London, and then to Sydney, where she fatefully came across conference production and quickly realised it was her dream role. Getting to speak with such passionate and successful people and create an agenda so that people can see themselves in other’s experiences, really spins her wheels.

She has a hunger to hear everyone’s unique story and really thrives from creating a platform for them to share these and help move their industry forward through collaboration.

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