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Battling Resting Bored Faces In Public Speaking‒5 Presentation Tips To Increase Audience Engagement

Written by: Howard Dean Lettinga Jr.

Executive Contributors at Brainz Magazine are handpicked and invited to contribute because of their knowledge and valuable insight within their area of expertise.


We’ve all seen them. In presentations, trainings and meetings, there are always a few in the audience. Those lifeless, emotionless faces. Resting Bored Faces! As a presenter, trainer or facilitator, it’s your job to pump up your audience engagement. This article gives you 5 public speaking tips to do just that.

A bored dog sitting on a chair with head on office table.

For many years, I worked in a high-tech, multinational company. We organized frequent customer events, and as a communications professional, I helped prepare presentations for the marketing teams.

During the events, I seldom watched the speakers. I watched the audience. What I wanted to see was smiling customers and prospects, engaged by our compelling presentations. But all too often, what I saw shocked me.

The dreaded Resting Bored Face

Far too often, I saw too many stone-cold faces. Uninterested faces. Let’s call them Resting Bored Faces. The dreaded RBF.

Shock. Horror. Trepidation. This was not going to happen in “my” shows. What followed was a career-long mission to transform the dreaded RBFs into smiling, lean-in, tell-me-more faces.

In this article, I share my five favorite audience engagement tips, earned and learned from years on the front lines in the epic battle against the Resting Bored Face.

1. Apply the KPI: You! You! You!

On web pages or brochures, you can get away with weak content. But in live events, you get feedback right away. Either you grab the audience immediately with “what’s in it for you”, or you get instantaneous feedback: the RBF.

The key to captivated countenances is You! You! You!

Use the word “you”. The more you use it, the more you force yourself to address the audience directly and to handle topics of interest to them, from their perspective.

At Noblahblah, we apply a Key Performance Indicator: You! You! You! How many times do we say the word “you” in an event? Yes, we count them.

Every piece of content and every sentence is measured against that holist of connecting criterion: What’s in it for the audience? What’s in it for “you”?


2. Let the audience do the work

Work is a labor of love when people are interacting and collectively building something of value. Here’s our list of interaction on steroids.

Ask them questions

  • Let them ask you questions

  • Let them ask each other questions

  • Give them energizers, where they work in teams to develop questions

  • Build quizzes into your content, and let them answer, individually or in teams

  • Let them make things they can take away and use immediately, such as a new Headline for their LinkedIn page, or an elevator pitch for their business

  • Create teams and let them compete against each other, such as a Pitch Battle

  • Let them define the course of the presentation itself. Let them vote on A, B or C and handle the topic they choose. It demands agility from you, but people love the unexpected

On the other hand…

3. Manage audience expectations

People also love to know where things are headed and how long things are going to take. They love to know what they can expect and the value they will receive. So…

  • Share a clear agenda

  • Apply the proven formula: Tell them what you are going to tell them. Tell them. Tell them what you told them

  • Let them know right up front the benefits of what you will share (but save a few for the surprise added value at the end)

  • Promise them answers to burning questions, and deliver in the course of your presentation

And then, once you’ve managed expectations…

4. Make the presentation a little bit short

Make things a little bit shorter than the audience expects. The key concepts here are ruthless time management and discipline, in the macro, the micro and the pacing of the whole.

  • Macro: If the agenda says you will be done at 17:00, be done at 16:45. People love it

  • Micro: Be a vicious editor. Make every presentation passage and every training module a little bit shorter. Prepare 10 minutes of content, then reduce it to nine

  • Pacing of the whole: Make everything fast paced. We live in the click and swipe age. Shorten. Condense. Be lean and mean. Move quickly from topic to topic. Don’t let them catch their breath

Always leave them wanting more. If they want more, you are more than happy to do a personal follow-up, which leads to more contact and business opportunities.

And finally…

5. Dazzle those RBFs with contagious fun and enthusiasm

Your content must be good. You must hit your You! You! You! KPIs. You must activate the audience, manage their expectations and surprise them with your brevity.

Now dazzle those RBFs with levity. Look them straight in the eyes. Smile. They will smile back. Dare to laugh. Have some fun. Make a mistake. People like fun, imperfect people. It puts them at ease.

Show your enthusiasm. If you are genuinely interested in something, and that something has benefits for the You! You! You!, let it show. It’s also contagious.

You will connect. Connected people are not bored.

Into the Noblahblah Zone

In 2018, we founded Noblahblah, a company specializing in public speaking training, speech writing and related communication services. People often ask me, “What is no blah blah?”

My answer is always a question:” What is blah blah?” It’s anything that doesn’t interest the audience. No matter what the subject, if the audience isn’t interested, it’s blah blah blah.

So, no blah blah is anything that captivates the audience. Anything that intrigues them. Engages them. Gets them to lean in. And replace that RBF with a smile.

The battle rages on. Saving the world from blah blah blah. And RBFs.

It’s a tough job. You can do it.

Howard Lettinga, Managing Partner & Executive Trainer, Noblahblah Howard Lettinga has more than 30 years of experience as a speechwriter and communication specialist at one of the largest high-tech companies in the Netherlands. He has written hundreds of presentations and worked with hundreds of speakers. He is also the former head speaker coach and current curator of TEDx Venlo, and an experienced speaker on Presenting with Impact, based on his “TED Tools for Life” TED talk. He is a specialist in marketing communications, story development, connecting with the audience, and presenting business information with impact!

Follow Noblahblah on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, and visit their website for more info!


Noblahblah, Executive Contributor Brainz Magazine

Noblahblah was founded in 2018 as a training company to support better public speaking. Today we offer a broad range of trainings and coaching that help our customers develop their full potential by communicating with more confidence and more fun, on stage, online and in person.

Noblahblah trainings provide professionals with new skills to present more persuasively, to define and communicate their unique personal brand with more impact, and to literally shine online by building and engaging their LinkedIn network. A special focal point is harnessing the power of diversity and inclusion by cross-cultural trainings and through our Women Shine with Personal Branding workshops and our Women Raising Women interviews.

Our customers include Fortune 500 companies, universities, start-ups and scale-ups.

Based in the Netherlands, our five executive trainers, from the United States, the Netherlands and Germany, bring a diversity of skills and experience.

While our core activity is communication trainings, we offer a range of related services, from speechwriting and copywriting to executive speaker coaching to corporate events design and moderation.



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