to Z of presenting.
Top tips to keep your audience awake.
with your audience
.Regardless of size
involve your audience. Your material will be more
memorable and you will probably be asked back.
Tell a story. People
remember stories; they add impact, set the scene, tune the
audience into the tone of your work and are fun to do. Your
story will be relevant to the topic, personal to something
you or someone you know well has done. One way is to make a
point, and link that to what the audience needs by telling a
When I speak on enhancing
leadership skills I make a point that leaders are expected
to lead change and make decisions. The audience will usually
nod and smile knowingly. I link that to handling difficult
staff in times of change.
Many of the audience will be
in a position to make similar decisions to the one I made;
they are therefore interested in hearing what I did. I tell
a story about a staff member who was not fulfilling her
contact of employment. Clearly my tactful approach did not
go according to plan, yet offered me significant growth, as
a leader. I finish by asking the audience to think of a
situation when they were less than ready to speak to a
difficult staff member, what they did about it and what they
would do differently now. The impact of sharing my story
Questions You involve
people by asking questions. If you notice what happens when
someone asks a question, your brain automatically sifts
through memory to find an answer. In other words you are
involved with the speaker. If you do not want them to answer
then phrase it as a rhetorical question. For example with
leaders “Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be
Nelson Mandella?” If you want them to respond ask them to
raise hand, stand up, sit down; anything that gets them
moving and engaged with your content.
Link to them emotionally
Be direct and use the word
“you”. Even with large audiences using “I believe you will
choose to … “; “are you aware of” .. makes it very personal.
A word of advice: using plural words such as “ well folks”,
“ Guys”, “People” “ all of you” is impersonal and shuts down
people. I often start with a song, it surprises the audience
and allows me to make a point or ask a question when I have
Be seen, be heard, be
60% of information comes
through the visual & emotional modes. Check your material is
lively and upbeat. Is your material good to look at and easy
to read? Consider how to connect through your visual aids,
perhaps give out objects they can touch & interact with.
Engaging with your audience
needn’t be hard with a little creativity. Keep them thinking
all the way through, then they will effectively listen to
you and take away all you have to say.
A to Z
of presenting in public
Audience. Try and find out as much about your expected
audience as you can. If you are using examples make them
relevant to the group, avoid jargon, keep the talk at a
level that will be effective for the majority of the
Breathing is a vital part of the presentation skills,
practice sighing, ughing, eeing, aaing and diaphragmatic
breathing. It keeps the squeaks out and the projection in. A
voice coach can to develop this lifelong skill. All the
strange new noises may cause others in your family to laugh,
which stops you taking yourself too seriously. Talking
should be fun for you too!
Cards. You may like to use cards that fit into your palm to
put the main points on, particularly if you are forgetful or
inclined to get off track when passionate about the topic.
Remember only brief points not the whole talk on the cards.
They can boost confidence.
D Don’t let your
ego get in the way
of the message. Some audiences react badly to a speaker who
knows it all, and doesn’t allow the audience to participate
or offer suggestions.
Equipment, nowadays you will be
offered a range of audiovisual equipment. Experiment before
hand and always have backup for when the laptop, bulb, or
Fun. Where possible work
something into your presentation, which causes the audience
to laugh or at least titter. They will pay attention and be
more relaxed for you, which will help with any nerves you
may have. After a while you will look forward to speaking
and this improves your presentations.
Good solid content matter. What ever you have been asked to
speak on should be what you provide. You can be
controversial if the occasion merits it and challenge the
status quo thinking, but remember most people do not like
Handouts. Used to interact with the audience or if there is
too much material for people to take in. You may be
encouraging membership by having handouts, and/or giveaways.
Remember WIIFM (What’s in it for me), benefits are expected
in return for giving up time to hear you speak.
Introductions should be striking or topical, give outline,
humorous or solemn dependant on the occasion.
Judgement. Judging the mood of a
room comes with experience and confidence. You will be able
to scan an audience’s body language and know if you are
stimulating them, a little chatter or murmur in big
audiences means that they are sharing with each other, that
will be ok provided they are still looking your way most of
the time. Leaning forward looking at you, smiling or nodding
are all positive signals. If it is not working, stop and
invite the audience to share their concerns with you.
Everyone will get what he or she wants when this happens.
Keep eye contact with most of the
audience when you are speaking. In a large group it helps to
settle you and for a small group it engages you closer to
Listening is also a part of speaking. Pick up ideas prior to
standing that you could put into your talk about what is
important to your audience. Remembering the names of your
host comes from listening too. Etiquette requires you know
who is in your audience, if opening an event.
Music. If music is playing at the venue, ask the staff or
your host to switch off just before you start using a
pre-arranged signal. Using music with your presentations can
be very effective, follow the tips in equipment, and check
that where you are speaking has a music licence or get one
your self approx. $ 100 per annum. Remember not all
computers attached to LCD projectors have sound cards. Also
music and graphs eat up memory.
Noisy audiences. If you can get
your hosts to ask for quiet do so, but if you are in control
then consider these tips. Smiling reassures the rest of the
audience you are in control. Walk closer to the noisy ones,
stop talking until silence resumes, use their name, and
invite them to share.
Organisation is paramount, if you are using equipment or
handouts, fitting in behind other speakers or dinner then
you need to be organised on the day.
Organisation also extends to
keeping the function people aware of your expectations or
requirements. Contact them if they have not contacted you,
then there is no room for error.
Planning is vital. For every 15
mins of talk you do there is 1-1.25 hours of preparation and
planning behind you. You can wing it, and may have to but
this is not honouring your audience. Likewise, it is better
to have a few “stories” that make the point ready for you to
pull out and use when appropriate.
Questions. Fielding questions can be rewarding, For a start
you know your audience has listened enough to ask questions. If you
know the content well you should be able to answer. If you
do not know the answer admit it, throw the question out to
the audience, someone else may know. You may like to offer
to get back later and remember to do so.
Rooms, make sure you know the type of room you will be in or
quickly get used to “seeing “ a room and summing up how to
best project your message in the room. Lots of material and
carpets muffle quiet voices, if you have a very quiet voice
consider carrying a portable microphone or invest in a voice
Style, you have to choose a style of speaking that will
compliment the audience and bring out the best in you. Are
you there to entertain, to inform or explain, to sell or
persuade or to develop or train the audience? Each requires
your material to be pitched differently.
Timing cannot be emphasised enough, if you have a set time
stick to it, no one likes a windbag. For a 30 minute talk,
that will probably have someone take 5mins introducing you
(unless you give them a short profile which is highly
recommended), allow yourself 3-4 mins introduction, 5 mins
conclusion and time for 1-2 questions. This results in you
having about 15 mins to sell, persuade, inform, explain, or
entertain the audience. It is not long. You will only get
2-3 main points over.
Use stories, and anecdotal points about your life and
relationships when speaking to groups of women, try sport or
business when your audience is mainly men.
Your Voice is an instrument; it needs cleaning, tuning, and
careful handling if it is to be used to project a strong
image. Watch that you drink plenty of water, and avoid
alcohol until after you have spoken if possible.
Where do you stand? Front Centre
Stage is the strongest point, use this for persuasion and
emphasis, right and left front of stage (or table) are both
acceptable points to present information. Step to back right
or left (left is probably weakest) to enable audience to
think about what you are saying – you fade out a bit) IT
offers emphasis when you return to the forward positions.
Xenophobia – beware of a strong dislike of foreigners; if
your message is “alien” to the audience don’t be surprised
if they reject the concept. Use as many ways as possible to
promote the messages.
You are the person they have invited to speak. Get used to
being stared at, if you are shy, work on distancing yourself
from the audience using visionary techniques. Very good
content takes the fear away.
Zoom in at conclusion on the main purpose of the talk,
particularly when seeking financial or emotional support for
work. Consider exposure to as many senses as possible in the
conclusion. Remember the fireworks display is noisiest and
most spectacular at the end.
© 2001 Arlene Quinn All rights reserved.
5 Top tips to keep your audience awake!
Find out something about at least 3 people in the audience
that is related to your topic. Bring these points out when
the group seems to be flagging. Encourage them to expand on
the point, be prepared to step in if they are embarrassed,
you want the audience to remain on your side.
Move around, don't stand behind something unless you are
making a point that requires you to stand left centre stage
and command the group. Movement, except when it is jerky or
irritating, makes the audience focus and refocus on you
rather like how they would respond when normally taking in
information. (just try staring at the same spot for 15
minutes and find out how motivated you are to learn more!)
Work on your endings and curiosity. Know what you will end
with and try to theme your presentation so it works up to
the ending. I once brought a box on stage with me and
started by opening the end then putting it down again, with
a "we'll leave this till later", then several times I looked
inside the box until finally I drew out the contents with a
flourish to emphasis my ending point.
Involve your audience, get them to share one point about the
speaking topic so far; or one point they will take away to
Tip 5: Be
as excited about your topic as you would wish your audience
to be. Don't say "this is a boring bit!". Be positive!