Global April 13, 2012 Last updated September 18th, 2018 3,391 Reads share

Ten Steps To Captivating Your Audience At That Next Live Presentation

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Showbiz insider tips that will add Charisma and Charm to your next presentation. If there’s one thing showbiz people know how to deal with, its captivating an audience, overcoming stage fright and getting applause. Want some trade secrets? Here are some pointers from a former Burlesque and Cabaret Dancer on how you can bring stage presence, charm and charisma to your next business presentation, next speaking engagement or even that next face-to-face selling opportunity.


In a former incarnation I have performed at burlesque shows, arts festivals, restaurants, weddings, intimate family dos and even at a race course next to parading horses. What I did was a cabaret version of Egyptian Bellydance. If you know anything about the Biblical story of Salome the dancer, you’ll know that she leveraged her performance skills and charisma to great effect.

If you are wondering why I am writing this blog, it’s because I caught myself giving these same presentation tips recently to a recent student of mine whilst teaching her about the finer points of Belly dancing. It made me realize the following:

Audiences the world over respond similarly because at the end of the day:

  • A lot of what and how we communicate is actually non-verbal and our shared humanity makes some universal techniques stand out.
  • Even verbal communication succeeds when it draws on some very basic emotional cues.

Here are some trade secrets from the world of showbiz that will help you captivate and en Trance your audience.

Showbiz Secrets to captivate your next presentation audience

# 1. The Entrance & Building Presence

Time to check that Body Language: are you walking in purposefully with confidence?

  • Not too fast or they will think you are rushing through.
  • Not too slow or they think you really couldn’t care less or can’t be bothered.

Are you looking alert?

  • Chin up.
  • Back straight.
  • Big smile.
  • Eye contact with the people you are about to greet.
  • Arms out and relaxed,  palms open.

Related: Making your Presentations Memorable

# 2. Eye Contact & Building Empathy

Even when you are communicate verbally, eye contact is how you send the subtext – eye contact does several things:

  • it establishes presence,
  • makes a human connection,
  • relays authenticity
  • and  acknowledges to the individuals in your audience that you are aware,  paying attention and focused on what your are doing.

Even when you are smiling – smile with your eyes included. Anything less than that is counter productive,  because it betrays the fact that you are not genuine. Look directly at people. If you fail to do this you will be unconvincing and the audience will smell fear.

# 3. Speak with your Whole Body

Master the nuances of speaking with your hands and the whole body and you will communicate with conviction, and draw more empathy. This is something dancers have to do as a matter of course.

  • Use all the muscles in your face.
  • Too much pre-rehearsed Body language or stiffness and you come across as un-authentic, distant and robotic even.
  • However, too much gesturing can also be distracting and off-putting. It’s a balance of finding the right Accents to emphasize what you are saying.

In my dance performances  for example, parts of the body are used in tandem with different instruments to emphasize tempo or changes in the music. You can use body language to communicate subtle cues like a change in subject matter for example.

Related: I Am A Presenter, Get Me Out Of Here!

# 4. Variety & Humor

I keep telling my dance students that dancing to a song with no variety in tempo, melody or changes, is a quick way to put the audience to sleep. In the business arena you have to ask the following:

  • Are you speaking in monotone, or droning on about the same subject , speaking jargon in the abstract with no relief?
  • Bringing variety to your presentation makes it more memorable.

A good performer also connects with some self effacing humour, a flourish or an  illustration once in a while. Don’t you tend to like someone a little more when they don’t take themselves too seriously and reveal a little bit of personality?

# 5. The Buildup, Pause and Release of Tension

In Middle Eastern dance tradition, a performer capitvates her audience by building up tension and then releases it. She does this either with moving very slowly until she comes to a pause and holds still for a moment  or moves faster towards a crescendo, pauses for a moment and then releases the tension by doing the exact opposite.

In a presentation:

  • You can build up your case and emphasize  your point well, but you have to know when to stop and let it soak in as well.
  • Allowing for moments where you verbally pause will stress the  point you were making and make it more memorable.
  • Then  listen for questions or watch for a reaction.
  • Invite or ask a question to break the spell.
  • Or say something flippant, humorous or extremely personal and anecdotal in the appropriate moments to help release the tension subsequently and inject intimacy.

Related: Presentation Tips – The GROW Model

# 6. Baubles Beads and Bling

We dancers know that a good costume is great for getting attention and enhancing the experience.

  • Do you have great stories, anecdotes, graphics and some color in your presentation?
  • At the same time don’t forget colorful anecdotes, gizmos or humour should only support you and should never overcome the presentation or take away from the central message.

This means returning to the same refrain periodically to get your message across, just like a hypnotist would.

# 7. Know your Stuff Inside Out

Practice, practice, practice. Rehearsing what you are about to say, especially in front of a mirror or other people, takes away some of the stage fright and stops you worrying about the actual delivery.

  • This allows you to concentrate on important stuff like connecting emotionally with your audience, exuding confidence and reacting to them.
  • You don’t want to see a performer counting through choreography in her head as much as you don’t appreciate a presenter just reading off slides.
  • Performers do better when they have mastered good technique and therefore attain muscle memory.

In business terms good technique means good product knowledge, having facts at your fingertips or a sound grasp of your subject at hand through research, regardless of the written contents of your presentation. Why? Knowing something inside out allows you to adapt, react to your audience at hand and respond to questions skillfully.

This brings me to…

# 8. Improvisation Skills

Respond to your audience and surroundings in real time. As a Performer I responded to the tempo of the orchestra or band in real time and also to the audience’s reaction, working the choreography into the different spaces I encountered so no 2 performances would ever be the same. And why would you want that? You will need to use your eyes and your ears to:

  • Look out for cues as to what piqued their interest and stay there a while.
  • Listen to the questions and let this guide the next angle of your presentation.
  • Address the key people in the room and make sure you reached out to every part of the room.
  • Pausing for questions midway allows you to develop real empathy with members of the audience and helps you guide the next step of the presentation.

Related: Great Sales Presentations That Fall At The Final Hurdle

# 9. The Art of the Tease & Flattery

My teacher always taught me NEVER show them everything at once and make them want to come back for more. Every presentation needs to tell a story to be successful, so it’s a matter of drawing in your audience, building up the expectation and letting the ideas unfurl logically not all at once. Revealing everything from the start is not going to work.

I attended a talk by Malcolm Gladwell once that kept me hooked with his masterful story-telling.  The audience will not mind waiting for the punchline if you have also delighted them with subtle flattery and made them feel good along the way. It doesn’t hurt to say something nice complimenting the space your are in or the people you are with. The Art is in doing it unexpectedly without resorting to cliche or being obvious and facetious. Being able to put your audience at ease and generating a feel-good moment. That is my personal definition of charm.

# 10. Know your audience

This is one tip, only you can find the real answer to. Researching the type of audience you are presenting or selling to is essential.  It becomes critical especially in a cross cultural space where the language you use, your level of jargon and even your mannerisms have to be adjusted for optimal impact.

Related: Five Tips to Wow Your Audience with a Blow-Them-Away Presentation

In short

You should be guessing by now, the single biggest route to charismatic, charming and captivating presentations is your ability to connect with your audience and remembering to be human or humane even. It’s the opposite of  being a lecturing know-it-all , automaton or talking down to someone.

Have you any life experiences and presentations tips that have delivered a  good response and even applause to your presentations. Or have you found any of these tips useful in the past? Please share them with the audience..

Image: “Crowds of people having fun on a music concert, Business people sitting in a row and applauding/Shutterstock

Elish Bul-Godley

Elish Bul-Godley

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