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January 24, 2013 / glennlim thots

Public Speaking – “Sustaining audience interest using the ARC model”


Have you been noticing how your audience is showing their interest to what you’re saying when you address them?…How would you chart out your presentation flow onto a speech graph?…Below are some typical speech graphs resembling different presentation models  along a 7min timeline (which is a typical duration for a Toastmasters speech project).


The ‘Sine-wave’ type of speaker builds his case well, brings his speech to a peak in the middle, and then slowly tapers toward the end in an uninspiring manner.


The ‘Sawtooth Wave’ is a more drastic (or disastrous) presentation flow in that the closing is abrupt and sometimes leaves audience with a bad taste and negative vibe.


The ‘Downhill Slope’ says it all! Have you observed speakers whose opening sequence wows the crowd and grabs everyone’s attention, only to lose momentum and hurtle to a pathetic end?


The ideal speech flow would look somewhat like an ‘ARC’. The ARC Model has a natural inclined momentum that ends with a ‘bang’! There are essentially 3 aspects of this model that helps the speaker progressively ‘peg’ his presentation  – Attention, Relevant and Compelling.


ATTENTION – All speakers must strive to gain attention in the first 10 seconds to shape audience impression toward your favour. Think of how you may begin your speech with attention-grabbing devices (startling comments, jokes, even non-verbal gestures). Rehearse your opening lines to avoid mishaps. Your objective at this point is to make your audience feel you have something worthwhile for them to sit up and give you their time & attention.

RELEVANT – Attention alone cannot sustain a speech. Now that you’ve got their focus, you need to make it meaningful to them by connecting it to their world. From this point on, what you’ve got to say must be important to them and/or to the occasion. You want to communicate how your message will affect their lives, or their jobs, or their families etc. It must resonate with them at a personal level.

COMPELLING – Your closing sequence is more than just a summary of what you presented. It now needs to take a turn toward action-taking. Your audience needs to be inspired to believe they can take positive actions toward tangible outcomes. Great orators move their audience emotionally by injecting self-belief, inspiring hope, and infusing energy. People are now compelled to make decisions in their lives because of what you said.

Here’s a video example of an award acceptance speech given by Bono (of U2), which illustrates the ARC Model in use.

Bono started off a little shaky, almost unsure, constantly referring to his script. However, he did gain attention when he addressed people connected to this award & movement (all part of his ‘small talk’). Afterall his persona is big enough to gain any type of attention. He proceeded to ‘build his case’ by sharing relevant past events that shaped his current ideals/values. I think his turning point came when he started speaking from his heart at 1:35. His delivery became smoother, his tone became urgent, and filled with conviction. You could sense an inclined energy-surge in the room. From 3:35 onwards he was in his element! He discarded his notes, spoke more forcefully, more passionately, and punctuated his points with gestures, fist & finger thumping.  He was feeding off the energy and applause of his audience. Towards the tail-end of his speech he sounded a compelling and rousing call using ‘You’ & ‘We’ statements (“We can end extreme poverty!”)…What an inspiring delivery!

Here’s to a more effective presentation in your next speech!…Glenn Lim


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