Have you ever been at a talk or conference and either fought falling asleep or watched the clock wondering when it would end? We’ve all been there, and it isn’t pretty. It also isn’t fun for a speaker to look out and see a sleepy or bored audience. Here are some things I’ve learned or noticed that can make your presentation really successful and well received:
When I took a public speaking course in college, the instructor stressed the idea of audience analysis. Every audience is different. Are you speaking to a certain interest or age group? Once you find out, it’s best to take the time to tailor the material to that audience by adding or removing items that the group may or may not want to hear.
Try to make eye contact with as many audience members as possible. Even in a large group, it’s possible to reach everyone simply by your intention. For example, how many concerts have you been to where you were in a large venue and seated up so high (in the “nose bleed” territory) but still felt moved by the performer? This is related to the performer’s ability to reach that very last row and connect with as many people as possible.
Analyze what interests you about a talk you have attended or heard: was it the person’s energy, enthusiasm, the message or all of the above? Listen to the speeches of great speakers like Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Mahatma Gandhi for example and emulate those aspects that made them so magnetic and interesting to you.
Watch your non-verbal communication. Is your posture open or closed? For example, are your arms crossed, shoulders tense, and/or nervous habits or ticks showing? I find the best way to know how you appear to an audience is to record yourself. I remember the first time I performed in musical theater and watched the video of the performance. I was horrified that I had the nervous habits of licking my lips a lot and splaying out my arms/hands like an airplane, not a pretty site but a valuable learning opportunity. Once you know yourself and what you do, you can correct habits without being self-conscious about them.
Take a break in the presentation and get the audience moving by stretching or doing an activity. The movement will increase oxygen to their brains to help them focus (and stay awake) for the next part of your presentation.
Now that you have more tools and have practiced your material, it’s time to go out there, have fun, and share your important message!
Heather was honored to be a part of the Holistic Speaker’s Guild as a member and staff writer.
June 12, 2017 4:12 pm