Real Leaders

How to Trick Your Audience into Listening to You


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

Last week we had a great response to a reader’s question about what to do if you are on the platform and people in the audience start using their cellphones.  This must be a common occurrence because we had several funny and fearsome responses. 

One leader said that he stopped cellphone use by telling the audience they were free to use their phones as long as they were taking notes on what he said. This comment kind of shamed them. Another said not to worry because most people can double or triple task today, and that it was something of a badge of honor to have phones come out. Another suggested that a speaker should always asks the audience to silence their phones.

One comment was really funny. The executive said that showing a provocative and shocking slide or photo at the beginning of a speech always kept the audience on their toes, imagining what might come next. They never turned to their phones out of fear they would miss something.

I still think the best strategy is to start off like a racehorse at Churchill Downs and never let up the pace in your discourse. Tell your audience to hold on to their seats because they are about to become owners of some new critical information and insights that they cannot fail to learn from. Then launch right into a fascinating story of some kind.

Also, use the point system — tell the audience you have five things to say to them. They will tend to keep track and will not want to miss one of them, because there will be a conversation afterward about the five points. Oh, and don’t tell the audience to silence their phones. You’ll sound like a Nanny. If this is absolutely necessary, ask your introducer to take care of the housekeeping for you.

What do you think? Have you had any funny things happen to you regarding cellphone usage in the audience? Let me know at the contact email below!

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

Most Recent Articles