How to SPEAK to ENGAGE (and convert audiences into raving fans, revenue, and repeat bookings)

Knowledge and content engages us at the lowest level of the cognitive domain (the thinking part of your brain).

Receiving knowledge ranks at the lowest level of the affective domain (the emotional/feeling part of your brain).

Simply put, if you are going to speak or present a workshop of any kind, sharing your knowledge of how to [fill in the blank awesome way I can level-up your income and life] may get you initial sales and new followers based on your content, however, it will fall short on developing a dedicated following of fans who want more of what you have to share. 

And, isn’t that point? 

Your audience - every single one of them - is your lifeline and your equity. You have one shot to guarantee whether someone decides to share positively about you and to remain a lifelong, loyal follower, OR, the next time they see your name on the docket to skip your session and tell everyone they know to skip with them. (translation: the quality of your success and lifestyle as an entrepreneur and speaker correlates to your effectiveness as a speaker... I choose a hammock in the South Pacific when I'm not working!).

Instead of thinking of yourself as an information delivery tool (because truly, ain't nobody got time for that! There is WAY too much information out there already), shift to making it a DYNAMIC OPPORTUNITY where you INVITE people to EXPERIENCE CHANGE (or, if you're not tired of hearing about it...transformation). When this becomes part of your WHY, you instantly gain access to a whole new set of tools and pathways to create an audience EXPERIENCE that provides opportunities to dive deep into both the cognitive and affective domains. And when you dive deep you become a bada$$ speaker, trailblazer, and leader in the best way and establish authority like no one else in your niche!

So, let's dive in!

When you develop any talk, workshop, or presentation of any kind, you want to include ways to access the full cognitive spectrum of your audience. (Sounds scary, but you'll be far from scared when you see how this can totally transform your speaking, presentation delivery, and overall engagement!)

Disclosure: I'm borrowing from the education world - a world I was a part of for a long time - and a world that has long studied content transfer, teaching and learning. Great teachers are GREAT speakers because we have perfected the art and science of engagement (ie: I taught high school students for a long time...you get the picture).

Here is how you speak to engage and the six different levels of engagement (and a colorful graphic to fire up those receptors).

 The Cognitive Domain of Learning (adapted) © 2017 Davide Di Giorgio

The Cognitive Domain of Learning (adapted) © 2017 Davide Di Giorgio

Remember (Knowledge): Every presentation includes information of some kind. Instead of you just presenting facts (yawn!) consider creating an experience where your audience can listen to, see, read...some content and then you have them go through the process of learning and remembering. It can be as simple as the order in which you deliver content and how you revisit it to allow for the audience to recall - even have them verbally fill-in-the-blank for your key points. In a workshop situation, offer a worksheet, survey or quiz, an outline/cheat-sheet, an acronym or labels, a quick video quiz (so much yes!). The key is to create opportunities for your audience to REMEMBER the material (not just receive it).

Understand: Remembering information does not guarantee comprehension. (Go back and read that again. It matters, a lot.) The next essential component of an effective talk or presentation is to provide the means for your information to be understood. This includes creating opportunities for taking notes, storytelling, and demonstrations, visuals - you get the picture. When you shift the focus from delivery to comprehension the way you speak changes. You become more descriptive, you share less in a richer way, and you increase your connection with the audience.

Apply: Simply, you want to allow your audience to practice. Even in a keynote presentation or a TedTalk you can find ways to allow your audience to apply what you're talking about. Silence is your friend! Use callback, sharing, or even allow for time to 'imagine yourself in this situation' and you paint a picture where the audience can visualize and mentally walk themselves through a scenario that you create for them to apply to their own life. The key ‘look for’ here is that the learner applies the knowledge in context to their own business/life/situation.

Analyze: Break down, compare, contrast, differentiate, infer, relate, select. These are the kinds of things you want to ask to encourage analysis and this higher level of cognitive engagement. One of the best ways to achieve this is to ask the audience to run a test and look at the results (in a workshop situation). In a keynote situation, YOU run the test. Show examples where the audience can infer their own analysis. Design visuals and demonstrations where your point becomes obvious through observation (without you having to say it first).

Evaluate: After analyzing the results of a test, the next step is to evaluate. (Uh oh... But you hate tests, right? And how are you going to test your audience?) The key is, ‘show them HOW’. Show your audience how to critique, summarize, conclude, and interpret the results you've led them to. SPOILER ALERT: allowing your audience the opportunity to evaluate equals SALES! It's those speakers who incessantly do all the thinking for their audiences that have (very) limited success in converting audiences (whether it be for sales or followers).  When you allow your audience to evaluate, you will also get you closer to claiming the throne as the expert in your field by providing a value that is not currently the norm. (Yeah, that's the sweet smell of success smoke from your blazing trail!)

Create: The highest level of the cognitive domain [Angels sing triumphantly in the background]; the goal you should set for your audience - ALWAYS. Encourage forward thinking and innovation with the concepts you speak about, every step of the way. Encourage your audience to use your fundamental concepts to create personal success. Shift the focus from you to them. 'GIVE' or 'GIFT' them the ideas you share. Invite them to make it their own.

A very simple way to do this is to actively encourage your learners to network with other learners in your online community. Networking creates community which creates the space for collaboration, innovation and creation. It also positions you as an innovator and leader in your niche who is creating a positive, actively engaged community. (Multiplatform bada$$ery is a big win!)


Think of the cognitive domain as a long pier (you see, the blog post photo isn't just a pretty picture!). The further you venture on the pier, the greater the potential for getting an incredible, unobstructed view and truly experiencing the water, wind and sun. (Ah-ha!) And so, the further you can invite your audience to venture into the cognitive domain, the more profound the experience at every level.

By adding even a few of these concepts to your talks and workshops, you will instantly raise the standard, increase your engagement, your revenue, and gain raving fans and reviews. Better speaking = better teaching = better learning = better connection with your followers = better business (and your dream lifestyle!).

Coming next: The affective domain (it's like a horror film) and why it matters even more in how to teach to convert!

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Photo credit: Alexander Legaree/Coal Photography

Davide Di Giorgio, The UNapologetic Speaker & Leadership Coach. You're ready, NOW!