Real Leaders

Giving a Speech? Here’s How to Make Your Entire Audience Pay Attention

Each week, speech coach and leadership mentor James Rosebush will answer a question on how to improve your public speaking.


James Wolf, CEO of CurioCapital asks: “Are there any techniques you prefer to make the entire audience pay attention?”

Dear James,

The most important thing you must do is to make sure people can hear you! Almost 100% of all speakers I coach are not innately aware that they must take charge of the amplification system.  There may be a team of sound technicians assigned to your speech, but you alone are responsible for the audience hearing you. There is no excuse for a lack of responsibility in this area of work. I often host panel discussions. There has never been a panel where I have not had to go over to them and place the mic up closer to the mouth of the one speaking — and much to my frustration they often move it away! 

If you have something important to say, for heaven’s sake make sure your audience can hear it!  You will have a sense if you can be heard by listening yourself!  Speak up — loudly enough to reach the audience even without amplification. Rarely is there ever a speaker who speaks too loudly as to draw complaints. Sound technicians can lower your voice, but they cannot always raise it. 

Few people know this but the more your voice has to rely on artificial amplification, the more inauthentic and thin your voice sounds. In the extreme you get that irritating feedback because the amplification has reached its limits or is in conflict with its own system.  Before you go on stage go to your car or a secluded space and sing your favorite song (even you think you cannot sing) to warm the vocal chords. Never ever drink ice water before you speak. That will tighten the vocal cords.  Open and breathe deeply to warm up the chest area and then have an expansive thought about your message and be glad to have this opportunity to share a message. 

Next time we will talk more about this subject of getting the audience to pay attention and I will tell you a story about how I got a teenage audience to get off their phones and listen! Good luck!

Have a question you’ve always wanted to ask about public speaking? Email James at and your answer may feature here.


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