Engaging the audience is key to effective public speaking

  • April 27, 2016
  • /   Rachael Gillette
  • /   training-development

What's your story?

This was the question Daniel Pennington posed on Tuesday to the nearly 70 people who attended the Studer Community Institute workshop, "Making Your Presentation Bulletproof ~ How to engage your audience and keep them engaged" at Olive Baptist Church.

Start a presentation "close to the action and tell a story to illustrate the point." said Pennington. People in attendance identified closely with his next comment, "Effective public speaking is all about confidence, but most people feel the opposite."

The workshop is part of a series of trainings on effective communication for small businesses, nonprofits and other groups hosted by the Studer Community Institute.

Good communication skills can help you achieve more as a leader, help you form more efficient teams, and even help you get promoted. Confident communication is key for taking on projects you might otherwise not handle and helps you achieve greater success.

"Eighty-five percent of your success in the next five years will result from your ability to speak, lead and communicate your ideas, according to a Carnegie-Mellon study," Pennington said. "It is not your degree, your title or who you know … but your ability to present your ideas and engage your audience."

Pennington shared a story about awards being handed out at high school by his classmates. He did not  get "most popular"  or "most likely to succeed"; Pennington earned the  "quietest" award.

Communication didn't come naturally and was holding him back, so he made a decision to do something about it.

Studer Community Institute workshop

The session addressed the issues that attendees had raised in a pre-event survey, including:

  • How to make an impact when you only have a short amount of time
  • Memorizing points
  • Keeping the audience engaged
  • Telling a compelling story

Pennington said the keys to presenting and speaking effectively include:

  • Checking out the event room ahead of time and making changes to the space to suit your needs
  • Getting introduced  and write your own introduction
  • Telling stories, incorporating a point into each story and inviting people in
  • Being enthusiastic
  • Being aware of your hands and making small gestures that don't distract
  • Varying sentence length, volume, and speed

During the workshop, Pennington instructed attendees to practice a five-minute presentation at their table. Initial reluctance turned quickly into enthusiasm and the practical application was appreciated. "Taking the time to improve my own skills is essential to being a great leader and encouraging others to develop." said Dr. Mary Mehta, CMO of Nemours Children's Clinic. "I need to walk the talk."


Attendees rated the value of the training 9.3 on a scale of 1-10.

"Daniel Pennington hit one out of the park today with his presentation.  It was fantastic!" said Pete Nowak of Nowak Enterprises. "Thank you for making us all better leaders, teachers and communicators."

The next Studer Community Institute training workshop on May 6 is "Taking Conversations from Difficult to Doable" with Lynne Cunningham.

Learn more and register here.