Sunday, March 21, 2010

High-Octane Presentations; Recommended Actions BEFORE You Start Speaking—Part I: Mingling With the Audience

When delivering one-on-one coaching on public speaking, or delivering presentation skills training to large groups, I invariably urge my audiences to make a special effort to create the right atmospherics before starting their speech or presentation because that will help beget a friendly reception of their message, even if their ideas are a bit contrary to those cherished by the audience.

For instance, milling around the room before the speech; using the introduction to whet the audience’s appetite; making a broad “visual sweep” of all those in attendance; not picking the wrong moment to start speaking . . . These are some of the easy preliminary steps to create the right ambience and ensure a high-impact presentation. This week, in “Part I,” I focus on mingling. Parts II and III next month and beyond.

Mingling with the audience before the presentation: By arriving early and engaging in light conversation or banter with some of those who will comprise your audience--something which I’ll readily admit is not possible in all situations--has several benefits. Among them:

(i) You will be able to “connect” with the listeners. It’ll be an opportunity for you to be seen as an endearing, warm-blooded person. And we know from research that there is a much greater chance of people accepting a presenter’s point of view if they like the speaker “personally.”

(ii) For neophyte speakers, this can be a confidence booster. It helps lessen nervousness. By mingling and “connecting,” a speaker quickly realizes that many in the audience are unquestionably supportive and want the presenter to succeed.

(iii) It’s an opportunity to ask people at random what issues or aspects they are expecting you to talk about. You might be surprised to learn there’s a misconception with regard to your topic or subject matter--something that you should definitely address during the presentation. Such informal one-on-one quizzing of the audience before the presentation becomes even more valuable if some of your material is controversial.

(iv) Continuing on the issue of a controversial or charged subject matter, the chit-chat will lower the probability of those opposed to your point of view being totally impervious to your ideas. And there will be less likelihood of your encountering hostility during the Q&A.

(v) Finally, if you are a foreign-born and have an accent, as I do, it’ll enable listeners to fine-tune their antennas to your style of speaking and idiosyncrasies well in advance.

Part II of actions to take before you start speaking will be posted next month.


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