How to speak in front of an audience

Maintaining the interest of other meeting participants can be challenging. Rhetorician Elaine Eksvärd offers advice on how to engage your audience.

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The art of engaging an audience

What should we keep in mind when speaking in front of people?

"To engage your audience, it's important to inspire three emotions: curiosity, credibility and goodwill", says rhetorician Elaine Eksvärd. She also mentions the importance of being prepared and maintaining eye contact with the audience. In addition, the clothes you wear play a key role. You should dress strategically for the occasion and consider the message you want to convey.

"Avoid apologetic rhetoric"

When it comes to things to avoid, Elaine believes that you should steer clear of apologetic rhetoric. Statements such as "I'm only going to..." or "I'm going to speak a little about..." bore the listener, according to her.

Is it really possible for everyone to become good at public speaking? Elaine believes that everyone has their own potential to become a good speaker. Everyone can improve their speaking skills with practice and, of course, practical experience is good. "Grab every opportunity to give a presentation or a speech at a wedding or a party," she says. Elaine is used to speaking in front of people and she has spoken together with, for example, Tony Blair and Göran Persson.

Don't you ever get nervous when you speak in front of people?

"Yes, absolutely. There's always an element of nervousness, although to different degrees. The way I see it is that I respect my audience," she says. "In other words, nervousness doesn't necessarily need to be a negative thing – it may well mean that you are taking it seriously and have respect for the audience". But if you're still finding it difficult and want to overcome your nervousness, Elaine thinks the best way is to remember that it's not about you. It's not you – it's the message that is important when you are speaking in front of an audience.

Author of several books on rhetoric

Elaine wanted to write from a young age and she has now had several books about rhetoric published, with titles such as "Vardagsmakt", "Härskarteknik" and "Snacka Snyggt". Of course verbal and written communication have their differences and she says that with writing, it doesn't need to be perfect the first time. Content can be rephrased. On the other hand, research has shown that verbal communication is more persuasive than written. In the end, you opt for what suits you best.

Elaine's 5 best tips for stylish presentation

  1. Be prepared – so that you are able to speak with confidence
  2. Dress strategically for the occasion – what message do you want to convey?
  3. Maintain eye contact with your audience
  4. Remember that it's not you, but what you are saying that is important – this may alleviate your nervousness
  5. Avoid apologetic rhetoric such as "I'm only going to..." or "I'm going to speak a little about..."