Sunday, May 31, 2009

The ABC's of Public Speaking - A is for the Audience

I have recently been asked to advise several executives on how to improve their public speaking skills. Creating favorable impressions on an audience is important in today's age of communication.

A is for the Audience

When you are asked to give a presentation it can be a great boost to your ego. Being on the stage at a meeting, luncheon or seminar can position someone as the expert in their field and provide them with the opportunity to gain visibility in their industry. The benefits for those who are given the chance to speak regularly can be outstanding for their future career success.

Many executives spend a lot of time preparing for their speeches, knowing that they want to look good to the audience. They devote many hours creating the PowerPoint, selecting their clothing, getting a new haircut, etc.... The whole process of giving a speech can cause people to be very focused on themselves. The pressure to excelling when on the platform can make a speaker very self conscious toward all their actions around the presentation.

While your presentation, appearance and how you are perceived is important, the it is advisable to turn your attention outward and make the audience your number one priority. Think about all of the times that you have sat in a chair watching a speaker at conferences where you were an attendee. We have all sat through long and boring talks where the speaker only spoke of themselves, their company and their products. These data-dump presentations leave people feeling empty. Without meaning to the audience, they listener will quickly get board, tune out, and turn attention to their iPhone or other electronics.

Think about the motivation of the people who are listening to you, and what they expect to gain from investing their time and attention in hearing what you have to say. Are they hoping to be educated? Entertained? Enlightened? Or all three? Do the stories you tell inspire them and impact how they can do their own jobs?

Remember... they care much more about themselves than they do about you. Make sure that everything you say will resonate. Do not just talk about your own success unless it can be used as an example for others to navigate their own path. Be sure that your stories include other people, and that you are not the star of every anecdote.

While it is easy to assume that we instinctively know what an audience will want to hear, it is best to ask this of the person who invited you to present about the desires for your talk. Discover the ages, industry backgrounds, job titles, gender, and other demographics of those who will be in attendance. When you understand who will be hearing you speak, it is easier to craft an interesting message.

If you want to be an effective speaker, you must make your priority all those who are sitting facing you. We live in a society with very short attentions spans, and if people do not feel they are your motivation, they will disengage. They will know if you are speaking for them or if you are speaking for yourself.

Speak for your audience.

Have A Great Day.


1 comment:

David Morris said...

I like these and think they could make a great book - "B" be Entertaining; I was once told by a salerep who brought me into to speak to a group of government folks that they wanted to be entertained more than they wanted to be educated.