Too few public speakers make the most of their opportunity and very few in Australia take any public speaking training. It’s easy for public speakers to think that their presentation went well as very few audience members express their true feelings. Event managers are often more concerned with punctuality and logistics than content, so presenters can live in a bubble.
However if we delve into the minds of audience members we’d often find thoughts like those featured in this series:
Thoughts you don’t want your audience to think.
Thought #1: “Duh!”
There’s a fine line between explaining what needs to be explained and teaching people to suck eggs. Many public speakers are worried about bringing the audience along with them so they explain everything from the ground up. They give background, they show organisational flowcharts, they treat audiences as students rather than fellow professionals. Don’t do this.
A client of ours recently ran through a presentation that she was planning to make to a room full of nutritionists. The thrust of the presentation was about how a low socio-economic school compensated for the poor nutrition kids were getting at home through their breakfast plan and other means.
Our client opened up by explaining the link between good nutrition and good student learning. You know the deal – as a well fed tummy provides the ability to concentrate so students get the most out of each and every class. That’s fine but she went on to explain this in great depth and at some length in the context of a 30 minute presentation.
I gave her feedback that a room full of nutritionists do not need to be told of the benefit to students of a healthy diet. They already get it. The nutritionists really wanted to learn about her school’s program so they could steal ideas and recreate its success.
Be careful not to tell your audience what they already know. It takes only a couple of minutes for an audience to sense that you are underestimating them. This is usually interpreted as a sign of disrespect and they disengage accordingly.
Of course you may have to cover some old ground or find some common understandings but liberal use of phrases such as: “you already know this but…” or “I hardly need to tell a room like this that…” show that you understand and respect them. It also makes audiences feel smart.
Hootville is running a public Speak Savvy workshop Wednesday November 11 for everyone who needs to improve their public speaking to audiences of 1 or 1000.
Thought #2: “Is she ever going to shut up?”
Public speakers need to find a way to involve their audience whether they want to or not.
I like to have some degree of continuous interaction with an audience which can take the form of short, sharp questions such as:
- Has anyone else here experienced that?
- Anyone here in violent disagreement with what I just said?
- Has anyone read that book/seen that documentary/used that software?
Your audience can respond via a quick comment, a show of hands or with a low murmur. It’s a small way to show that you give a damn about your audience and you just might learn something from their response that you can reflect in your presentation. You must find a way to let people in your audience participate. Q & A at the end isn’t enough.
Serious about being a better speaker? You should be. Better speaking = better career.
Download our free PDF eBook Speak Savvy and book in to our workshop Present Savvy.