Listen to Me! Creating Emphasis and Capturing Attention in Your Speech or Presentation
It is never easy trying to capture your audience’s attention and maintaining that for your entire presentation. You may have faced this before. Your introduction to your hour-long presentation starts out fresh and strong, with everyone glued to your every word. The story changes when you launch into your main content. Slowly, but surely, you spot a few members scrolling away on their phones. Worse still, some start to engage in hushed, but still distracting, conversations. Short of giving a stern shout of “Listen to me!”, how do you re-capture their attention?
One underrated tool in the arsenal of effective communication skills is the ability to create emphasis. Whether it is a technical presentation or a personal experience sharing, your delivery will be boosted by the skilled use of emphasis-building techniques. This goes beyond gimmicks, energetic delivery, or viral content. Instead, emphasis creation is a careful approach that utilises your vocal quality and linguistic tools. When done right, the emphasis will help to draw your audience in, re-focus them on an important point, and facilitate their understanding of the same point.
In today’s article, we will share three ways you can create the same impact on your delivery by creating emphasis!
Experiment with Pace & Pauses
One aspect of emphasis-building is vocal emphasis. By experimenting with various aspects of your vocal delivery, you can create emphasis and highlight a key point or message. Changing your vocal quality does not just mean adjusting the overall speed of your delivery. The aim is to take advantage of voice modulations by moving effectively between different speeds for effect. This is still balanced against a comfortable, general speaking pace (aim for 2 – 3 words per second!).
Here are two main types of emphasis to create! Building to a crescendo – one way of creating emphasis is by gradually increasing your volume to build to an energetic conclusion. This method is effective for story-telling elements as you bring your audience to the tension-point of the story. Instead of just building to an uncontrolled volume, use a powerful pause before slowing down to let your audience savour the release of tension. Slow, Repetitive, Anchoring – on the flip side, a consistent, slow repeating of a tagline or a conclusion may ensure your speech content remain ringing in your audience mind (e.g. We / can / change … We // can // change. – with “/” indicating a pause).
Experiment with Volume
Still on vocal quality, another obvious aspect to experiment with is the volume of your delivery. It goes without saying that a loud, booming voice may not necessarily be the recipe for success. Instead, learn to use silent spaces to re-centre your audience’s attention. A silent space is slightly longer than a pause, and it is the intentional use of silence to allow the audience to appreciate the significance of your message or story. It is meant for your audience to savour and enjoy. One way of adopting silent spaces is when using impactful rhetorical questions. Take a long pause and allow your audience to re-focus!
Beyond silent spaces, delivering with extremes in volume can help you to deliver a dynamic presentation. While an energetic, exciting portion can be delivered with a higher volume, the conclusion or main message can be emphasised with a sudden inflexion or change in volume. Powerful speakers know how to utilise this to their benefit, often using this from an introspective point, e.g. “The alley was dark, with shadows dancing around me. I could hear the scampering of tiny feet and the wind howling behind me [louder, faster] … but I am all alone [softer, slower].
Experiment with Rhetoric
Beyond vocal quality, linguistic devices or rhetoric are powerful tools to help you secure your audience’s attention. They ensure that your speech or presentation content is digestible, memorable, and irresistible. A slight caution, though! This will only work if you use this technique in moderation. The idea is not to fill your entire presentation with complex rhetoric or repetitive taglines. Instead, aim to use them at strategic parts of your speech.
One example of such a tool is the power of 3. The power of 3 works on the idea that your audience is more likely to process and retain concepts in blocks of 3 – 5 points. Beyond just repeating, the power of 3 can also be used for three different words or ideas, as long as they retain a logical flow. Therefore, instead of saying “this was difficult”, you can utilise rhetoric and turn that into a more dynamic-sounding statement: “this was tedious, torturous, and tiring”. Beyond the addition of two words, the use of the “t” as a consistent first letter is also another form of rhetoric – alliteration. By combing various devices, you can turn a bland speech into one that captures your audience’s eyes.
*** You Heard That Triple Description Too Huh? Nice! ***
Catch and Capture Your Audience’s Attention!
Even if you are not delivering a persuasive speech, it is the inevitable goal of every communicator to try and catch their audience’s attention and retain that same attention. This can be challenging if you are faced with a long presentation or a droning voice. By just changing your vocal delivery or adding novel linguistic devices, you can turn your speech into a powerful driving force for your audience. We hope with the tips above, you too can start to create emphasis and draw your audience in!
By The Way…
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