How to win your audience?

Julia Prus26 stycznia 2020

Ricky Gervais’ speech at Golden Globes went viral, mostly for the reason that his jokes absolutely slammed Hollywood. However, apart from the roasting content he produced, the speech was brilliant for the presentation skills he used. Ricky is a comedian that knows exactly how to grab the audience’s attention. We have analyzed which elements helped him succeed. Follow what Ricky does here, and improve your public speaking skills with us.

Roast Them. But Really?

“[…] Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, nearly three hours long. Leonardo DiCaprio attended the premiere, and by the end, his date was too old for him.”

This is just another joke/roast from the host. Who will be next? Who’s getting a hit now? That’s the question that everybody is asking themselves. Rick’s focus is on the people sitting there. His tongue is sharp. And so is his attention: not on the event in itself, not on himself, but on the audience. The people in the room are the protagonists. That’s lesson number one: if you want to get attention, offer it yourself, too. 

Lesson number two: bring your audience into an attentive mode. As Ricky’s main occupation is to mock people, he does that throughout his whole speech. No stops there. Even though the form of the performance doesn’t change (new topic, new joke), everybody listens carefully because they know that they or their friends may be next in the litany of jokes. How to learn from this? Structure your speech or presentation interactively so that the audience will impatiently wait for the next part. How? In business, you can dynamically ask questions directed to specific people. Distribute attention in a rapid mode, and keep the pace. Make sure the audience knows that they will be involved. 

Also, while talking about a particular task or projects, try to elaborate more on people who perform them, instead of focusing on the process. Let them feel appreciated and “called out”. That may be a less thrilling way than what Ricky does; however, if you know your environment is fine with that kind of jokes, go ahead! Roast! You will have a laugh, convey information and everybody will be focused and engaged.

Confidence and Body Language

Let’s face it, Ricky’s speech was truly controversial, and most probably you will not choose to do simulate it in a business environment. However, we can learn from the confidence he oozes. Even when the audience “boos” him, Ricky would never hesitate: he stands strong, gestures sharply, and never drops the character. His posture is in no way similar to the neat and kind figure below, even though the pressure on him must have been high.

He explains his point, although it’s hardly a popular one, and still carries on. What’s best, he doesn’t try to avoid the audience – he faces it, by saying for example: “I know he’s your friend but I don’t care”.

Surely, dismissing somebody’s emotions isn’t the best way to go around but you might want to use the confidence that goes along. The audience will know that it’s not fake and that’s exactly what you stand by.

How to show it? How to look more confident despite the negativity? Look at Ricky’s body language:

1. His open arms suggest that he doesn’t want to shield from anything. He’s not afraid and defensive; quite the opposite – with the open arms, he suggests “come at me, that’s just my true opinion that I’ve right to”.

2. Shrugging shoulders – is there any other more obvious way to announce that you don’t caret? That’s not the most friendly way to talk with your interlocutor, however in the times of audience’s attack it works perfectly. The integrity between what you say and what you show is the key, that’s why when he admits to not caring, he only strengthens the message with the shrug.

3. Talking about the “body-speech” integrity, shaking your head also serves as an element that highlights the message. See how clear that is in his talk? Non-verbal messages like that speak quickly, and are indisputably clear.

What’s the lesson then? Words will never last if the muscle doesn’t follow suit. The whole body needs to be involved if you want the audience to feel the authenticity (or persuasion) of what you are saying. Think about the integrity of what you preach and what you show. When you tell people that they should speed up with the project because it’s very needed, will you shake or nod your head? Will you open your arms and use dynamic gestures, or will you keep your arms crossed? Pay attention to this area: it may be a small element that will convince others to your point of view.

Manage Emotions!

Some say that “professional” means “unemotional”, “dispassionate” or even “reserved”. Maybe, maybe. We love to go different way – and that’s because we know that emotions are exactly what grabs attention. So, would you rather go with monotonous speech or add a bit of emotional intonation? If you choose the latter, the chances of remembering your speech are much higher.

In this bit, Ricky highlights an important fact: most audience members watch Netflix instead of the network TV or movies in cinema. He does that in a weary-like, almost impatient manner. As a result, he grabs the audience’s attention and shares a bit of his attitude towards this trend:

Add a Twist, Please!

What else raises engagement? A surprise. An unfamiliar, unexpected element. A twist. What’s true for books, films, plays, games and football games is also true for public speaking. If everything is predictable and stable, our brains switch to stand-by mode; they can predict what is going to happen. If you avoid conventional structures and add a twist instead, you will surprise the brains of your audience (as weird and creepy as that sounds)!  So, not only controversies can be effective; twists will do as well. Let’s see how a pro did that:

Witty, right? Start with a compliment regarding the TV show and then highlighting its hypocrisy. However, the speech you want to present doesn’t always have to go from good to bad. It’s all about a surprise in it. Let’s see an examples:

Dear all, it’s been a harsh time, number of clients reduced their orders in our company due to economic crisis, 5 of our employees left the job. So, what’s the result? We have still doubled our income comparing to the last year’s outcomes! And it was all thanks to your engagement, motivation and hard work!

What’s the drill?

  1. Start safe. Present a goal you want to convey – thanking employees, stating the importance of your job, passing results from the quarter.
  2. Find counter-elements; obstacles, stats from the industry, other people’s opinion, your own predictions to the contrary.
  3. Develop the thought about the opposites and end it with a two-sentence twist presenting your point. The outcome will be spectacular! However, remember that the point you make should not be too long. Firstly, you raise engagement steadily as the brains of your audience are just about to predict what you want to say, and then – surprise! Keep your twist segment about 1/3 of the length of the preceding segment.

Juggle, Change, Juggle, Change…

Let’s be clear – structure is extremely important for presentations. Without it, both you and your audience would be lost. But! What would happen if you decided to use a juggling-type of presentation that balances between chaos and order? I’ll tell you what would happen! You would win your audience’s engagement!

Let me ask you: does this Golden Globe speech have a structure, and the bits Ricky says are somehow connected? Well, after the speech, all agreed that his performance’s point was to slam and mock Hollywood, so most definitely his jokes create a bigger picture.

Now, there is more than one way of structuring a story, presentation or speech. You don’t have to start with:

  1. Introduction
  2. Body (arguments/opinions)
  3. Summary.

Although you can. But check this: Ricky presents an idea that can be brilliant in any kind of presentation. Chop your talk into paragraphs and reshuffle them so that one doesn’t result from the other. There can be confusion on your audience’s faces at the beginning. However, when you get to the end, to the “bigger picture” and your punchline, you will see that the audience listens to you extremely attentively to find out what the purpose was.


That’s about it. Some say that Ricky is not kidding at all in the talk – he lays out plain facts, and everybody thinks it’s a joke. Whether that’s indeed the case or not, one truth is to be universally acknowledged: the better you manage your audience’s engagement, the more spectacular effects you can expect.

To conclude. Talk to your audience about them. Avoid theoretical generalizations, point (with words) at the exact people watching you. Ask them questions, laugh at them or with them and continue with the next person. While presenting, don’t forget about your body posture. Let their minds focus and observe your body language. What’s next? Think about your voice, and about what emotions it conveys. Don’t avoid the emotional tone – it can help if you know where your going. But avoid letting emotions go off the orbit. Last, but not least – a twist. It’s almost an instant engagement boost so think about stating two pieces of information that are not linked in any obvious way. Try to surprise and entertain your audience a bit. Juggle the content. Micro bits of information or stories that you present, make sense when you make sure the audience sees the whole picture in the very end. 

Oh, yes, end. Time for it now. 

This article is a part of larger series where we find the best presentation examples and show how you can nicely improve your performance. See any material worth to cover or have any questions? Write at

How to win your audience?