By Deborah A. Genovesi, Accredited PR Veteran

I recently heard an excellent speaker named Scott Greenberg deliver a keynote about how to use change and adversity in your favor to unlock your potential and master your mindset while improving business performance. Most of us have had challenges in life. Scott uses engaging personal anecdotes to demonstrate that “bad” stuff (like the cancer he battled at age 22) is actually our friend.

This could turn depressing but it’s all in the delivery and when Scott is done speaking, people flock to him. Part of the reason is that he knows how to connect with an audience and never bores them. Scott, and other great speakers, often use similar tactics.

Here are 5 tips for keeping any talk interesting, engaging and valuable for an audience.

Tip #1: Know Your Audience
There’s no way you can connect with your audience members on any level if you don’t understand who your audience is, and what they want and need from you. Take time to speak with audience members, and the meeting coordinator, to assess how you can best fill the need of this particular audience with tailored comments that are relevant to them.

Tip#2: Lighten Up
No one likes a stiff, nervous or overly serious presenter. It always helps to use levity and humor to keep an audience connected with you. You don’t have to be Jerry Seinfeld, but a light and playful tone goes a long way toward grabbing and keeping attention. We all love to laugh and most of us spend too many hours dealing with “serious” concerns like finances, illness, child care, etc. Give people a chance to break free of that heaviness and they’ll be grateful.

Tip#3: Visuals and Interaction
We’re a visual society and the more you can show AND tell, the better received you’ll be. Power Point slides are helpful in solidifying a message but you’ll make a bigger impression if you include photos, especially personal ones, and video. Avoid monotony and make the show visually interesting and dynamic.

Don’t allow the audience to be too passive–encourage interaction, whether it’s an impromptu poll via a show of hands, or calling an audience member on stage to help you with a visual demonstration. Whatever you do, put the volunteer at ease and never make them feel threatened or foolish.

Tip#4: Easy-To-Follow, Valuable Content
If you researched your audience needs you’ll be able to customize your presentation so that it’s providing valuable content they actually want, not just what you think they should know. When you give the people what they want, they’re apt to follow what you are saying and will see their time with you as a good investment. If they enjoy your content enough they’ll want to know more after you leave the stage.

Tip#5: Be Yourself
People are savvy and time-pressed. An audience can feel when you are disingenuous, so don’t try to be anyone else and don’t be afraid to show your personality. You need to assess the crowd and the venue for clues on just HOW much you want to cut loose, of course. A business presentation probably isn’t the time to show embarrassing Spring Break pictures, but within reason, let folks see who you really are. People won’t do business with you until they first know you, then like and respect you. Be real, shine like the star you are, and you’ll be closer to that goal.

Deborah A. Genovesi, APR “Your Communications Copilot” is an accredited PR veteran and former TV reporter helping business people become known as experts in their fields with strategic branding and positioning so they attract ideal clients and increase income. She also provides media training, speaker training and video production