When was the last time you presented an idea before a crowd? Chances are not too long ago. Public speech is among those activities one can’t escape in life. Regardless of your occupation, status, and tolerance for public speaking, you certainly have been or will be invited to address an audience. Since there’s no way out, you might as well learn how to sell your ideas, whether we’re presenting to 1 or 1,000. You needn’t be an expert orator, the following five techniques can help you appear more confident, grab and maintain your audience’s attention throughout the entire presentation.

Make a Great First Impression

Research shows we have less than a minute to make a good first impression. A 2017 study at the University of Toronto found observers rate speakers’ charisma within five seconds of watching silent clips of them. That’s true for a sales pitch, networking, or meeting a business partner. When presenting, hook the audience with an extended silence, a thought-provoking question, or a startling fact. If you begin your presentation with a story, “once upon a time” can be an effective opener. You want to arouse the audience’s interest right from the beginning or you’ll struggle to sell your idea.

Use Socrates’ Rhetorical Devices: Ethos, Pathos, and Logos

2,000 years ago, Socrates identified three rhetorical devices that are still relevant today. They’re used by motivational speakers, salespersons, politicians, marketers, etc. To sell your ideas, include a strategic mix of ethos, pathos, and logos in your presentation. Ethos is establishing credibility by showing the audience you have their welfare at heart and that you master your materials. Logos is combining data, facts, and figures to make your point. Finally, pathos involves triggering the audience’s emotions by wrapping your idea in a beautiful story. 

Study Your Audience

You are the one presenting, but your speech isn’t about you. It’s about the audience. To get your message across effectively, you must have a basic understanding of the audience you are addressing. Before getting on stage, gather demographic questions such as age, occupation, education, and basic background information.

Master Your Material

The audience may sympathize with a nervous speaker, but they’ll show no mercy to an unprepared presenter. Preparing for a speech means studying the listeners, embellishing your script, and, more importantly, mastering your material. You must be familiar with the vital few of your presentation, viz, the introduction, main ideas, and the conclusion.

I don’t advise memorizing your lines verbatim. Why? An effective preparation doesn’t spare you from performance anxiety or choking. Choking happens when, despite excessive practice, one fails at the moment that matters most. To public speakers, it occurs when a speaker’s mind goes blank on stage. If you memorize your speech to the letter, you risk exacerbating the situation by struggling to retrieve a single word or a sentence from your memory. If you know your main ideas, you can masterfully and discreetly pivot without the audience even noticing.

Make a Remarkable Last Impression

Many speakers put great emphasis on the introduction while ignoring the conclusion. That’s a fatal mistake. The conclusion is a speaker’s last chance to connect with the audience by sharing a message that sticks. Keep your conclusion concise, goal-oriented, and audience-centered. What do you want the attendees to do, remember, or know after your presentation? Answer that question, and you will have made a memorable impact.


There you have it. Five techniques you can apply immediately in your next presentation.