Building Hype – How to Engage an Audience Before a Talk Even Begins
Get ready for some superhero action. Recently, I went to give a talk at Sharpness primary school. The school had ‘won’ me as a prize from a competition ran by Active Gloucestershire and the Daily Mile (they promote children running a mile a day for healthy minds and bodies – cool huh?).
All of the Gloucestershire schools were entered into the competition, and as Sharpness Primary were the winners, I went there to be their Adventureman and be a motivational speaker at the school.
So, when I arrived on the day, it turned out the kids I would be speaking to were between 4 and 11 years old – quite a big age range! I thought this will be quite a challenge, to be able to communicate well with such a wide range of ages, so what I did was separated the older children and the younger children and decided to do a talk for each group.
I was worried with the younger ones, the 4-6-year-old group, as I was not sure they were quite old enough yet to be able to sit through a talk, and to be able to understand the message. I started with the younger ones and was fully expecting that they probably wouldn’t be that engaged – I thought I will try to keep the talk super-fast and super interactive so that they are not as likely to lose interest.
I came out in my superhero costume and I quickly realised that they were not behaving as I had expected at all (their heads and eyes weren’t doing a side to side dance-a-thon). They were all SO relaxed and engaged with me that I thought I would change my approach and share really detailed stories with them.
I was blown away by how well the children responded and afterwards I spoke with their teacher – I told her they were the most engaged children of that age I have ever come across!
The teacher told me, ‘over the last month or so in preparation to you coming to visit, ‘we’ve been showing the children your YouTube videos and talking a lot about the reasons you do what you do.’
Of course, it made total sense! I wasn’t some random person coming to give a talk, but someone who they had already been engaging with, and the fact that they knew about me and some of my story meant that when I came to give a talk, their interest had already been captured before I arrived.
Building hype before a talk, changes the atmosphere enormously for the better, and helps the kids (and adults too!) get more out of it. As a motivational speaker, the aim is for the audience to get as much out of it as possible and building hype is a great way to do that.
Even I need a reminder to let schools and organisations know to do this!
Let’s not forget lasting impact too on how you finish the experience. It was only right to run a mile around the school grounds, with all the children all dressed up as Superheroes!
Here’s one kid dressed as Adventureman:
Just a standard day really, as a keynote speaker, and adventure-idiot!