How to Make Dry Content More Engaging

Let me guess: you’ve read all the blogs, all the books, and all the advice on how to be a better public speaker, but you still feel stuck because you think your content is boring and no amount of eye contact, gestures, or vocal variety will make your audience stop glazing over. Maybe you didn’t write it, but it’s your job to communicate it and you’re dreading the blank stares and the fake “note taking” (i.e. texting) from your audience.

I hear you! Some topics are naturally more exciting than others. Let me help you make dry content more engaging and interesting.

Have a Favorite Part

This sounds silly, but it’s so incredibly important. If YOU think the information is uninteresting it’s hard to convince your audience otherwise. Review the material and find a part you connect with. Maybe it’s something that’s personally helped you, something that aligns with your professional passions, or just something you think is cool or interesting.

Then, when you get to that part of the talk, say something like, “Alright everyone, pay attention to this step right here because it’s my favorite part” or “if you remember one thing from this meeting today, make it this.” Phrases like this are called “wake up phrases.” (By me. I call them that.) A “wake up phrase” is a verbal trigger to the audience to stop zoning and pay attention. It’s a way of keeping an audience engaged.

Wake up phrases also humanize your content. You’re not a robot reading PowerPoint slides, you’re a person. A person with likes, dislikes, experience, and failures. Audiences relate to PEOPLE not just content, so humanizing your dull content can make it sparkle a bit more.

Sell the Result

Presenters cringe at content when they think the audience doesn’t care and doesn’t want to hear it. Anyone who has ever sat through a meeting that could have been an email understands this. Instead, don’t focus on the content, focus on the RESULT the content will bring.

What is a shared struggle your audience has? A shared frustration? Focusing on how your content will solve a shared problem has two benefits: 1. It gives people a reason to care and 2. It creates a sense of rapport and understanding.

When I coach speakers, I tell them to literally put a piece of paper in front of them that says “Why Should They Care? So What?” If you speak for more than a few minutes without answering those questions, address them before moving on.

Replace Numbers with People

Speaking of humanizing content…we all know how important stories are when making content memorable and engaging. I’ve heard from more than a handful of presenters that “my content doesn’t lend itself to stories.” Sure it does.

Need help inserting a story? Find a number in your presentation, and replace it with a person. Like this:

 “36% of people have a better day after doubling the amount of creamer in their coffee” (completely made up statistic, but if feels true doesn’t it?)

becomes: “Let me tell you about how Emily’s day changed for the better after spilling a little extra caramel creamer in her coffee mug…”

Obviously this isn’t going to work in every situation, but if you find yourself listing a ton of steps, or explaining a lot of details, look for opportunities to insert stories. They give your audience a listening anchor to land on for a bit while processing and reinforcing the other details you’ve just relayed.

Need additional help? Contact EmilySchwartzSpeaks@gmail.com I’m happy to chat!

How to Speak Like a Leader

Why do some leaders seem to have the natural ability to inspire change through their communications?  Why do some leaders engage an audience the second they open their mouths, and some are so…forgettable and unremarkable? Speaking like a leader is both an art and a science. Before you speak to your team again, try these things:

Make it About Them

As a speaker, the focus is on the audience, not you. Your job is to inspire THEM, to help THEM elevate their actions and ideas, to address THEIR problems and fears. As you’re putting together your talk, pause after each new thought and ask yourself, “Why should this matter to them? Why should they care? How will this help?” If the answer to those questions is not abundantly and obviously clear – make it so.

When your biggest worry as a speaker is, “I’m afraid my message won’t reach the audience” and not “I’m afraid I’ll mess up, say the wrong words, look silly, fidget too much, say too many ums” etc, THAT is when you know you’ve reached leadership territory.

Say Less

If you say 100 things once, people will remember nothing. If you say one thing 100 times, your message will stick. What is the BIG idea you want people to remember? What is the BIG thing, the concrete action, the measurable step you want your group to take? Decide what that is and say it repeatedly. “Simplify” is not a dirty word. It’s actually the smartest and quickest way to elevate your communication.

Treat it Like a Performance

Think of a leader you admire. Does it feel like they come across as effortlessly impactful? It takes a lot of effort to appear “effortless.” Leadership isn’t about winging it. Before you speak to the group, plan out the message you want to convey. Practice it so you can deliver it confidently. Speak louder than you normally would and make a conscious effort to add vocal variety to your speech so you don’t come across as monotone.

I’ve never understood why coaches tell speakers to “act natural.” I don’t naturally stumble into a room of 40 people and communicate an important message. You want to be your genuine self, but the speaking version of that genuine self. That person appears confident, relaxed, inspired, and engaging.

Leaders report that their teams’ communication skills improve dramatically after a public speaking training. Reach out and schedule yours today. EmilySchwartzSpeaks@gmail.com