276 - How To Captivate An Audience When You Speak - John Laurito
Episode 276 How to Captivate an Audience When You Speak Tomorrows Leader Podcast with John Laurito

276 – How To Captivate An Audience When You Speak

We’ve sat through that painful presentation, webinar, or training that felt like we were being punished for something we didn’t do. Today host John Laurito shares his knowledge on captivating an audience during your speech and what you can do to prepare for it. Whether it’s engaging them from the beginning, keeping them curious, or connecting with them through humor. Make sure that they can’t stop talking about you and your presentation when they leave.

[0:00] Intro

[0:23] A pulled muscle

[2:36] How can you be good at speaking in front of an audience?

[8:01] Think about the Think-Feel-Do

[8:50] Visualize people coming up to you and saying positive things

[10:33] Start and end with a story

[13:46] Don’t get fixated on slides

[14:37] Bounce your eyes around the room

[15:38] Move around

[17:03] Move your voice up and down

[19:06] Practice

[20:45] Outro

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John Over the last two decades, I’ve been on an insatiable quest to learn everything I can about leadership. What makes the best leaders so good? After running companies small and large over the last 20 years, today I speak on stages all across the world to audiences who are interested in that same question. My name is John Laurito. I’m your host, and I invite you to join me on this journey as we explore this very topic and what makes the best leader so good. Welcome to tomorrow’s leader. 

John All right. Welcome to today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader, where we dove deep into all things leader-related, related to leading yourself and leading others. I’m John Laurito. Glad to be with you today. Have you ever yawned so big that you pulled a muscle in your jaw? I don’t. This ever happened to you, but this just happened to me. That hurt, like of. You know what? Holy cow my jaw was almost stuck open. I get off. That’s locked. I was literally a muscle right in the bottom, underneath my chin. 

John And it just cramped up like a pulled hamstring and even I had muscles under there. Anyways, that hurt a lot. Took a while for that thing to either delay the broadcast or delay the podcast. So that’s kind of crazy. I don’t know if you had like, I don’t know, some kind of major presentation and whatnot you’re getting called out to the audience called up to the stage, and you’ve suddenly pulled you’ve yawned right beforehand. For some reason, you’ve pulled the muscle. Like, what do you do? I’m just thinking, I’ve never that has never been in my mind before going on stage to do a keynote presentation that, hey, you got to be careful, maybe stretch some jaw muscles so you’re not, you know, pull on a muscle before you get up there. That’s not even entered my mind. But maybe it needs to. 

John I don’t know. Now that I’m thinking about it. Maybe that’s part of my pre-pre-game routine now, huh? All right, well, see, I learn things new every day, okay? And I’m going to apologize ahead of time for coughing that I go through any coughing fits. I’m not going to stop the recording. If I do, I do. I’m dealing with this every end of May in North Carolina. I love this state, but this is horrendous allergy season and mine tends to up as a cough. It’s an asthma cough. And once I get going and I’d stop and I’ve already this now takes I think four because I’ve broken into this coughing spit so fits whatever so if I do or I pull a jaw muscle I was going to kick on. If you hear me suddenly get silent, you know I pull the jaw muscle if you hear me just coughing nonstop. Do you know what that is? 

John So just bear with me and we’ll get through. This will be worthwhile because I think this is going to be a great episode and it ties into what I was just saying actually about speaking engagements. The question I get a lot of times is how do you speak in front of big groups of people? How do you speak how do you get up on a stage in front of thousands of people and command the attention of an audience? It’s that big. How do you keep people engaged for an hour, an hour and a half, or sometimes 2 hours and not have people lose interest? And I’m going to give you the keys to this. And I really think this will help you. 

John And I don’t I’m not speaking to you as a professional speaker that you’re if you want to become a professor. I’m not I’m speaking to anybody who wants to be better at public speaking. And as a leader, I don’t care if you’re a formal leader or informal, your ability to speak in front of a group and a group could be two or three people with passion, conviction, and influence, that and being able to attract people and attract attention and captivate people, that’s a skill. You can learn how to do that. So I’m going to go through some of the things that I know contribute to this. Now, I’m also going to tell you some of the things not to do, but I tell you very specifically what not to do. I’ve seen this a zillion different times. 

John I’ve seen people I had a good buddy of mine will mention his name, you know, so I’m talking about years ago was doing a best man speech and he said, Can I get some pointers for me? I said, Sure, no problem. I said, Just do two things. So I’ll tell you a bunch of things that you just don’t do two things. Do not do these two things. One, do not take notes up there. It’s a best man speech. Memorize it, you know, do whatever you got to do. Speak from the heart. Don’t take notes, don’t read from cards. Secondly, no inside jokes. Nobody cares about your inside jokes that are standard. You’d lose the audience. And what did he do? He did both of those. What? The job anyways. It was not one of the best and best man speeches I’ve seen. Put it lately. 

John Yeah, he knows who he is. But I love you, buddy. You know that. I love you. Um, anyways. Anyway, so I’m going to tell you the things to do and these are really key. So here’s a couple of things I’ve seen, I remember seeing a, and we’ve all seen speakers have been part of experiences where we remember the person for years and years. One of the best speakers I had heard. I’ve heard many, many, many great speakers from Anthony Robbins, who just captivates an audience. I mean, wow, Tony Robbins is just on top of the top is the highest level pinnacle of public speakers. Wow. What a guy can command an audience, keep people engaged for a long period of time. 

John But not everybody is a Tony Robbins in terms of your energy, your animation, your storytelling, everything like that. So many give you some things you can actually implement. But I remember hearing a guy, he was actually a pilot for the Blue Angels, which is the area of aeronautics. You’ve heard me tell Blue Angel stories, and that’s who I got them from. Great public speaker, great speaker, great professional speaker. I remember talking to him afterward and I’m like, How so? How? I talked to our person in our company who had hired him and they said he was $40,000 for that hour, which if, you know, public professional speakers, their ranges go from ten grand all the way up to a couple of hundred grand, sometimes for a really well-known, famous figure, sometimes even crazier. 

John So I remember talking to this guy afterward. I’m like, So how many of these things do you do now? Here’s the, you know, the financial side of me math, capitalist, math, math guy, and I’m doing the numbers. And he said, well, I do probably about 70 speaking engagements a year, like 70. Wow. 40 grand a pop. That’s like 3 million bucks. Holy macaroni. So anyway, there’s a lot of money, but realize that’s a lot of impacts. Think about how many audiences you’re standing in front of. If you have a great message and you can really influence people in a positive way, you are really there’s no better place and way to do it than a stage in front of people. I can go on and on about my joys of keynote speaking. 

John It is a thrill. I mean, it is a thrill. And most of you know, it’s used to scare the shit out of me. I had panic attacks. Go back and listen to some of the early episodes where I talk about the panic attack that I had on stage one time. Absolutely horrible. But I’ve gotten over those. Have got past those. I love speaking in front of large groups, but I figured out along the way, what are the things that really draw an audience into you, and what are the things that really make your presentation, your words, impactful and long-lasting? And I used to hire speakers for my meetings that I wanted to put together conferences or meetings for my company. I wanted to hire speakers that added a lot of value. And I was looking for somebody who was entertaining and memorable and also impactful. I was looking for that type of person. So there’s a very specific set of skills that help. 

John I sound like a Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson’s other name. Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson. Liam Neeson. Is that his name? Yeah. I was a respected expert of skill. That. That’s horrible. I can’t even do it. My apologies anyway. I will do that another time. Here are the things that you have to do on this wall. These are some small things that really make a big difference. One is to think before you go up there, you’ve got to have the thing feel do when you’re this is the planning stages. Where you going to say is what do I want this audience to think after my presentation? 

John How do I want them feeling and what do I want them to do as a result of my presentation? Have the result of what I’m saying? What do I want them thinking, feeling, doing that itself will start to set the stage for you, creating and saying the right things and creating the right messages. So that’s point number one. The think, feel, do I learned that years ago from Peter Vilardi great friend of mine, and that has served me extremely well. The second thing now this is important when you get up there and by the way, before you even get up there, I mentioned this on an Instagram real that I did recently that I always visualize who was somebody. 

John One person and a few people came up to me afterward saying great, positive things. I always do this and now it’s second nature to me. But I always think about this and I’m like, you know, I did a presentation, I remember, and I visualized a good buddy of mine, Michael Caine, coming up to me afterward. It was really weird because this was a weird I mean, a huge audience, 3000 people. And I visualized him coming up to me afterward and saying, You crushed it, dude, awesome job. And I walked off the stage and in the back of the auditorium, he was there and he gave me a big hug and said, You crushed it, man. It was unbelievable. Freaky. And I can’t tell you that. I can tell you many, many times that has happened. The thing I visualize somebody saying something. They said a bottom line is what you start to think about impacts your performance, right? If I’m a visionary visioning that it becomes his self-fulfilling prophecy. It puts me in the right mindset. Okay. 

John I want to go out there on stage. I want to have fun. And I know I have fun. When I’m confident, I really know my material. And when I have stories, gay stories, stories, stories, stories make the difference. There’s nothing worse than a presenter that’s going through facts and figures and concepts, and there are no stories. I get bored. I get really, really bored. I want to hear stories. What I will tell you is that the one thing that really helps make me stand out is not I mean, through my whole presentation, I probably on an average keynote, I counted this one time. It was something like 25 different stories that I told or anecdotes. That’s a lot for one hour keynote. 

John I mean, you think about that, that makes points more memorable. I mean, so think about the power of that. What I always do when I start a keynote starts with a powerful story. I don’t even say anything. I go right up and they introduce me. I walk up to the stage and I start telling a story. I don’t say, Hey, it’s great to be here. I literally go right into the story and that’s a great way to catch her body’s attention. Right. They’re almost not expecting that. So I start with a story. Try that. Don’t say. Well, thank you, Mary, for bringing me. Thank you, Bill, for bringing me. It’s great, I love, this resort of blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Just go right into the story, and catch people off guard. 

John That’s what I do. And if it’s a powerful story, it should be a story that sets the stage for the point or the theme that you’re going to have through your presentation. It should be a story that you can go back to and reference back to a couple of times during your presentation. So think about your opening story has got to be it’s kind of like the introduction to the book. Why pick up a book? The first couple of literally the first two paragraphs, if they don’t grab me, I’m going to put the book down and then move on to the next one. I have to get the first book. You know, I put out videos recently. 

John It’s interesting on Instagram and it tells you the analytics of a tell you how long into the video people watch, you know, the average person, how long they watched my video, 6 seconds. 6 seconds. I felt bad about that. I talked about other people that are like, yeah, it’s a 6/2 rule. You don’t know that they would. People watch for 6 seconds and then they stop. There’s a huge drop-off. So unless your video or your presentation grabs people instantly, they just move on to the next thing. So that actually helped me. I’m like, okay, well now I got to change my videos and everything like that. But bottom line is, you’ve got his start with the story, start with a powerful story that grabs people’s intentions and they’re thinking about it even after the presentation, but then use it to go back. 

John It should make the point, maybe a tie. For some of the titles of your keynote or the presentation you have, Kate’s story can be short. It can be involved in a personal situation. It can be involving something at work. It doesn’t matter. There are no boundaries to it. As long as it helps make the point or ties in with the theme of what you’re going to be talking about. It can be creative. You can look online for different stories. You can make them up if you want to become a borrow them from other people, whatever you want to do. But start with a story that’s big what I’ll also say is end with a story. So if you think about these are the bookmarks or your presentation, start and end with the story. 

John Your last point, your closing remarks should be to tie the story down. People remember what they started hearing and what they’ve finished hearing. Those are the beginning and the end. Powerful, both of them. Powerful. Really big, powerful stories. My two best ones. Right at the beginning. Right at the end. Aside from that, a couple of small things: Don’t get fixated on slides. Don’t make your presentation all about slides. People get distracted by that. Okay. I’ve seen great keynotes with zero slides. 

John I’ve seen some great ones with slides, but they don’t get fixated on it. They use it to put up pictures or examples of stuff for a few points, but they don’t get so bogged down because then the presentation becomes more about the slides and it does you. You are the essence of the presentation. Make it about that you’re delivering a message. You’re not trying to draw people’s attention away from you on the slides. I know people get scared and that’s what they think. Hey, I’ll feel better if I have people looking at slides instead of me. 

John I get it. I’ve been there. But trust me, the VAD does much better receptivity. And people will feel better hearing your message and watching you than they will watch a screen game. The other thing is to make sure your eye contact is bouncing around one. It relaxes you. If I’m fixated on one person, it makes me tenser, right? I’m now reading overly reading that person’s body language or their facial expression, their nonverbal cues move your eyes gradually around the room. And what’s amazing is it’s just like if you’re walking by a painting of a person, you feel as though the eyes are following you. 

John If you ask someone in the audience, they’re like, I thought you were a look at you were looking just at me. Right, right at me. I wasn’t I had no idea from where they were sitting. But because I move my eyes around, it makes it feel like I’m connecting one on one. So the best presenters are those that really connect with their audience. It’s impossible for you to connect if you’re not making eye contact. Or I will say it’s extremely difficult. So just bounce your eyes around the room. Left to right. To right. To left. I also move around a lot. I’m not very good. 

John I don’t sit by a podium. I hate that. Okay. Do your best to move around. Not too much, because then it will get distracting and don’t. If you have these tics where you’re kind of rocking back and forth, you know, this is where a video camera can help you pick some of the stuff up, practice in front of other people, videotape your presentations, pick up on those unique ticks that you say they’re going to distract people from your message. They can start watching your take. They’re going to start by listening to what you’re saying. So if you have any of those things in your vocabulary, the as the O’s, the arms that keep coming out, make sure you figure that out and be aware of it and work really hard to eliminate it because I promise you, nobody’s going to want to listen, hear you, and then start the tally of how many times you say. 

John And so we talked about that gesture. I’m a big believer in gestures. Now, the Italian to me, I can’t gesture. I cannot be animated. But I see people that are really not very animated and it becomes very boring. So think about just becoming free. Let your hands move naturally, not unnaturally, but let them make move naturally. Just just be loose and don’t feel like you’ve got to keep keep your hands in one spot the same way. Move your voice up and down, add tonality, change the volume, change the pitch, change when you’re telling a story Start to go a little quiet. Mostly you’ll have a livelier mic for some of the bigger presentations so you can actually get really quiet. I heard one presenter start his meaning he was a prisoner in war and he started the meeting with his voice was so low it was down like this, but he was talking at this level right into the mic and it was so clear and it was relaxing. 

John But I sound like I’m doing a sleep meditation audio right now. Maybe I should do that now. Close your eyes. Relax. Okay. All right. Back there, my boy. Maybe I should do that, huh? One episode. That was kind of fun. Unless you’re driving, that wouldn’t have been good. But, you know, the bottom line is you change your tonality and your pitch and your volume, everything, right? That grabs people’s attention sometimes. If I have I’ve done this in different meetings, in smaller groups. If people are not listening, I’ll just stop talking. I won’t even say anything. I’ll just stand there. And it’s amazing if they’re watching their phones or whatever, they’re doing something like that that makes people uncomfortable, right? 

John They all of a sudden look up what just happened? What do I just miss? Okay, but speaking of the silent moment, there’s such a powerful part of a presentation where you have the pregnant pause or that silent moment where you say something and you let it sit. And know how to use silence to your advantage. It really emphasizes a point. People need a minute to digest something, especially if it’s a controversial point or a powerful point that you’re making. Let it sit there. Don’t just roll right past it and on to the next topic. It’ll lose its essence. 

John Last piece of feedback. Practice, practice, practice, practice. That’s the way you get great at this stuff. That’s the way you’re comfortable with this stuff. Those are the keys. I mean, it’s not more complicated than that. Part of it is the message, but so much of it is how you deliver it and you can take a boring message and bring it to life. I’m telling you when you think about stories, add them in as much as you can to make your points. I’m a big believer in trying to make a presentation actionable, and I do that, but I always add stories as examples. Hey, here’s somebody that did this right or did this wrong, and here’s what happened. Here’s why it happened. Here was a disaster. It was a success. People remember that. I’ve had people come up to me ten years after something. 

John They’re like, Hey, I remember that story you told me about blah, blah, blah. Like, wow, I remember that it was a long time ago. So take that for what it’s worth. I hope that makes you a better presenter. I’m more than happy going to more of this stuff. This is just kind of off the top of my head. Some of the things that I know contribute to a successful presentation, speech workshop, whatever going to do keynote doesn’t matter if it’s in front of two people or 2000 or 5000 or 100, whatever, this will help you captivate that audience. 

John Okay, I’m here to help. So reach out to me. Okay. DM me, Whatever. Email me, text me. Do whatever you want to do. Send a carrier pigeon. I’m here. In the meantime, like, share, subscribe, go down below, and give a five-star review. I am always interested in your ideas for guests as time topics. I do have a long list coming up from your suggestions. I greatly appreciate that. Keep them coming and I’ll see you next time. Thanks, everybody. 

John Thanks for joining us on today’s episode of Tomorrow’s Leader for suggestions or inquiries about having me at your next event or personal coaching, you can reach me at John@johnlauritThanks. Lead on. 

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