Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Giving a Speech? Let Others Do Some of the Talking

Filed under: Speaker Tips — Larry James @ 7:30 am

Be an interactive speaker!

Keep the communicative theme between you and your audience going and consider asking questions directly to the audience. Not only will asking questions to the crowd get you some active participants, but it will help ease any nerves you have by sharing the spotlight. Asking your audience a question can be an effective attention getter at the beginning of your speech.

giving-a-speechI often will surprise the audience by giving the first person to answer one of my questions one of my books! Sometimes I tell them in advance, but most of the time I surprise them with a signed copy. After that, the audience will begin to warm up and will have some questions of their own. Make time for a question and answer time “during” your talk, not just at the end of your talk. This will help you adapt your message more specifically to your audience. They get to hear what they want to hear.

You can set expectations early on about whether you will take questions during the presentation, or whether you will set aside specific times to handle questions. Depending on the audience, I will almost always let them know that it is okay to ask questions during my talk. I always thank them for the question and repeat in my own words what I believe I have been asked. Sometimes not everybody in the audience will have heard the question. This gives you two advantages: 1. It clarifies that you have understood the question and, 2. It gives you a little time to reflect before answering.

If your audience is indeed loosened up enough to ask questions, before I answer, I might say, “That’s a great question. What good ideas do you have?” to begin the interaction.

Obviously you must know your material very well to be unafraid to have an unexpected question throw you off topic. A good speaker will anticipate questions and be prepared to give answers during those sometimes awkward moments.

If your entire speech is a series of statements, your audience may passively listen and absorb very little. On the other hand, you can make them active participants by inviting them to “think” about your key points. This is most effective if they are asked to think about an issue from a fresh perspective. Allowing the audience to “ask” questions during your talk is a great way to clarify and reinforce your message. It’s an important way for listeners to clarify and get more information from the speaker. Of course, this will depend upon whether you are delivering a keynote address or are talking to a small group which may be less formal and more conducive for this format.

Your listeners will often sit and quietly be thinking of a question they might like to ask but are to shy to speak up. If you’ve giving the talk many times before, you will most likely know the questions they might like to ask. Rather than waiting to address these questions following your speech (e.g. in a Q and A session), address them in the body of your speech by asking the question and immediately answering it.

If time allows for it, consider preparing a role-play scenario that, through audience participation, could exemplify one of your key points in your talk in real-time.

Asking, “Are there any questions?” at the end of your talk is not what it’s cracked up to be. Lisa B. Marshall, professional speaker says, “I think many speakers say these things because they’ve finished speaking and then suddenly realize that their audience hasn’t realized they’re done! So, in desperation, they blurt out one of these phrases, hopeful that those words will clue them in.”

There is this long pause… because no one asks a question. Then, what do you do? Some make a lame comment like, “Guess I covered everything quite well.” That’s dumb.

Always include enough time to fully summarize your main points. Remember, “repetition” is an important part of learning and also for comprehension and recall.

Give up saying, “Thank you,” at the end of your talk. They should be thanking you! It’s better to just stop talking.


Authors & Speakers Network Blog

Copyright © 2013 – Larry James. Larry James is a professional speaker and the author of three relationship books, “How to Really Love the One You’re With: Affirmative Guidelines for a Healthy Love Relationship,” “LoveNotes for Lovers: Words That Make Music for Two Hearts Dancing” and “Red Hot LoveNotes for Lovers.” His newest book is “Ten Commitments of Networking.” Larry James also offers “Author & Speaker” coaching. Contact:, P.O. Box 12695, Scottsdale, AZ 85267-2695. – More than 110 articles especially for Authors & Speakers at:

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1 Comment »

  1. […] BONUS Articles: The Two Elements of a Great Presenter The Speaking Pause… Why We Won’t Stop Talking! Giving a Speech? Let Others Do Some of the Talking […]

    Pingback by Are You a New Speaker? Start Here… | Authors & Speakers Network Blog with Larry James — Thursday, August 7, 2014 @ 7:48 am | Reply

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