How to be an engaging speaker

How to be an engaging speaker

You've been invited to speak at a conference. Congratulations! Your experience and knowledge are paying off.

Now the hard work really begins. Here are the key elements you'll need to craft a talk that has your audience hanging off your every word.


What are the three main points you'd like your audience to remember at the end of your talk?

Why just three?

Well, if you need to remember more than three things from the shop, you write a list.

Will your audience be writing a list while you speak? Probably not. In Storyteller Tactics there's a card called Three is the Magic Number, which helps you arrange your main points in a way your audience can handle.


We are really, really good at remembering information that comes in story form.

For each of your main points, you need to be able to quickly say "For example..." and launch into a simple story that helps us see what you mean. Check out the Movie Time tactic to practice your own simple story.


How can you avoid a one-way snooze-fest of information?

Audience interaction adds massive energy to your talk, so long as you do it properly.

Lamely saying "Any questions..." followed by a tumbleweed silence is not proper interaction. Polls, quizzes, props - they all help. Check out this great list of audience interaction tricks

Take-home point

What do you want your audience to DO after your talk?

A good talk is packed with socially useful information. What have you got to offer your listeners? Give us a practical benefit: (e.g., "when you need to write your own story, take a look at this PDF").

Crafting an engaging talk

So, write your first draft. Then colour code it like this:

Yellow = Theme. Green = Story. Blue = Interaction. Red = Takeout.

This was a talk I gave to a tech conference in Estonia last year. I quickly realised I had too much theme in my first page. So, in the version on page two, I launched into a story straight away, then started an interaction with the audience and made it really clear what they would take home if they stuck with me to the end of the talk. 

Judge for yourself whether it worked:

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