Monday, August 5, 2013

Make the Audience Your Partner

“I try to ignore the audience,” a client told me. “But I’m slated to speak to 5,000 people in a few weeks. I’m really nervous. Can you help me?”
“That’s a lot of people to ignore,” I commented. “I can help minimize your anxiety but…. it will mean a change in your attitude.”
Instead of ignoring your audience, a speaker’s task is to connect and interact with them.  If you want to be successful, you need to call up ideas and images in their minds that will be understood, relevant and of value to them. The opening song in The Music Man, “Ya Gotta Know the Territory," is astute advice for any speaker. Do a thorough audience analysis. Shift the focus off yourself and become audience-centered. 
To do this, you need to progress through the Three Stages of a Presenter.

The lst stage is when you are involved with yourself. Fears and anxieties are running rampant in this stage. It is all about ME, ME, ME. The speaker is concerned about making a fool of themselves and the impression they make on the audience.  Do they think I’m intelligent? What if I fail? Someone laughed - did I say something stupid?  Am I dressed too casually?” 

The 2nd stage is involvement with your material or visuals. The speaker is so wrapped up in the content that he/she will get through their material no matter how the audience responds. “I know I’m going overtime but I want to get in another point.” Five people can fall off their chairs in the back row from boredom but the speaker doesn’t react to this – they just plow through the graphics.

We should all be working towards the 3rd stage. This is when the speaker goes beyond him/herself and the material and is focused on the audience. “Am I starting from where they are? Have I transformed concepts and ideas so that they are understandable and useful to the audience?  In this stage, the speaker is aware of developing an emotional connection as well as delivering information. He or she involves the audience immediately and draws them in throughout the speech.   Am I getting the response I want or should I modify my words or delivery?” Instead of “me” oriented it becomes “we” oriented.

As I helped my client focus on his audience’s needs, desires and goals, he began to forget some of his anxieties. He told me later he waved to the audience when he went on stage and although startled at the welcoming response, felt ok. Then he concentrated on making sure they left with practical information.
Make the audience your partner in your next communication situation.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Speak to the Back of the Room!


Hi Everyone,

During the last year, I sold my condo and moved to Kirkland, WA to be nearer by children and because I missed the Eastside. Love my new apartment!

Let’s talk about a basic speaker issue. Being heard. It seems a no-brainer but recently I’ve attended three events where I could barely hear a word. And the speakers all had microphones! Two situations were in rooms where their voices should have carried without a mike. (I hope you’re developing your voice/breathing so you don’t need to rely on a mike.)  It didn’t matter how much each speaker had prepared or how brilliant their ideas. No one around me heard them either. Sometimes there was laughter up front. But it was a waste of our time.

Be your own producer, director, stage manager, script writer, star and audio-visual consultant. You’re responsible for managing the perceptions of your audience. Your number one duty is to make sure you’re heard.

1.     Talk to the person in charge. Find out the size of the room, the number of people expected and something about the acoustics.  Will a microphone be provided? A stationery mike attached to a lectern is not the best as you have to keep your head positioned in one place. A hand-held mike takes practice to consistently keep it near your mouth. You can look like a juggler if you’re using a remote control or advancing your computer. Ask for a lavalier (lapel) mike so you have consistent volume and the freedom to move around the space.

2.  When can you visit the physical site and do a sound-check? A hand-held or stationery mike should be the distance of your fist (with your thumb on your lips) from your mouth. The lavalier mike should be postioned close to the center of your chest. Avoid obscuring it with clothing or noisy jewelry.

3.     When you speak your first words, you may have to adjust your volume. The number of the people in the room may make it necessary to speak louder than when the room was empty. Once you have established a comfortable volume, speak conversationally. Avoid sudden bursts of breath or surprising changes. If you are seated on a panel and the mike on a short stand is passed along, sit up straight and pick it up rather than awkwardly leaning forward. 

5.     Ask a person in the back of the room to signal if you need to increase your volume. Don’t be shy about this! Ask people if they can hear you before you begin. They may be too embarrassed to say something later..

                                                   Make sure your voice will be heard!

Jan D'Arcy

Sunday, December 4, 2011

3 Presentation Tips from Model Communicators

Recently, I attended the TEDX Ranier conference at the University of WA. This is an offshoot program of TED (Technology, Entertainment and Design.) I’ve always recommended my clients to visit to view the excellent, inspiring speakers. Speakers are urged to put forth ideas that will change the world.

This program was no exception. Dr. Leroy Hood discussed human genome mapping and Scott Oki, who has funded 18 non-profits, talked about education reform. Adreen Mahmud described how he uses technology to solve social problems and Chrystie Hill gave examples of how libraries can build community. Daria Musk performed and sang with Google +Hangouts from all over the world - she’s had 200,000 in her web audience.

The delivery styles of these model communicators were all very different. Some were better speakers than others but they were all passionate and committed to their causes and no one was boring. How can you become a model communicator? If you wanted to become a master chef, you would seek out the best culinary school or watch videos to learn techniques or apprentice yourself to the best chef around. Perfect your speaking technique by studying the performance of the best communicators.

In general, they display the following behaviors:

1. They thoroughly plan and prepare their presentations. One client told me that he started being unusually nervous before and during his speeches. SInce he was a good speaker, he had skipped rehearsing or visiting the physical site as he felt he didn’t have to make that effort any more. However, the best communicators will tell you they step up their rehearsals. Once my client got back into a strong preparation routine, the nervousness diminished.

2. They start from where their audience is; not from where they are. Even though they are experts, they start from the same level of knowledge as their audience and find common ground.

3. They take responsibility for the audience’s ability to understand the topic. They have a gift for taking a large amount of material and breaking it down into smaller, cohesive units that can be easily understood, remembered and applied by the audience. You will go far if you can synthesize reams of data and edit it down into useful information.

More tips from model communicators next time. Meanwhile, visit , attend presentations of famous speakers who come to town and be more aware and learn from the best speakers in your organization.

Jan D'Arcy

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Steve Jobs, Presentations' Master

Steve Jobs will be remembered for his amazing ability to inform, persuade, and inspire an audience. He was able to comfortably walk around the stage and have an intimate, although dramatic, conversation with thousands. He came across as confident and competent because of his constant connection with his audience. How can you also gain freedom from a script?

Here’s some memorization techniques:

1.Clearly understand the information. Concentrate on communicating your ideas, rather than memorizing word for word. You can initially write out complete sentences, but edit down to key ideas on your notes' section of your slides. If your mind should go blank, you can pick up on the idea instead of searching for the specific words. Jobs used some notes, but very unobtrusively.

2.Choose a clear Organizational Pattern. For example, if you divide your presentation into Past, Present, and the Future, you can confidently move through the stages and end up in the future. If you state a Problem, you can move on to a Solution, then a Visualization Step and then an Action Step. A formula keeps you and your audience on track. Jobs always had a clear central theme, introduced his agenda of three-four main points and developed one key idea per slide that complemented his theme.

3.Memorize your beginning and ending statements. Write them out by hand. Putting pen to paper stimulates our brains and makes a more permanent connection in our brain.

4.Refer to storyboards. Print out 6-9 Power point slides on a single piece of paper and print as many sheets as you need. Keep these in sight so that you’re aware of the next slide and can compose meaningful transitions.

5.Rehearse. Jobs was a fanatic on rehearsing. Beware of spending so much time on content and visuals that you end up rehearsing in front of your audience. Schedule time to recite the information aloud as you walk up and down slowly and make gestures. This simple exercise will begin to integrate the speech into your body. Even if you stumble or forget, keep going and rehearse from beginning to end each time.

6.It’s useless to “cram.” Review, take a break, review and take another break to relax. The brain cannot absorb and store only so much information at a time. It takes more than six hours for memories to initially stabilize and be saved in long-term memory so that we can recall them later. It’s more beneficial for you to take a nap, a brisk walk, get a massage or listen to music than last minute cramming. Then you'll be in the mood to have fun and entertain, just like Jobs always did!

7. Study the Masters: Videos of Steve Jobs from 1983 to the present:

Photo by Matthew Yohe, SteveJobsMacbookAir.JPG. from Wikipedia Creative Commons

Book: The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs: How to be Insanely Great in Front of Any Audience by Carmine Gallo

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Bring Authenticity to Your Presentations

One of the best compliments a speaker can ever receive is, “You are authentic.”

When your audience feels you are real and genuine, they accept you and your message as reliable and trustworthy. If you’re authentic, you’re the author of your life’s script. You have processed information from your culture, from your parents, family and friends and from your work but they are not dictating your actions. You have chosen to be who you are but more importantly your actions need to demonstrate this truth.

A large company asked me to work with a member of their Speaker’s Bureau. The young man spoke at community events endorsing their services but was getting poor audience evaluations. When he gave his usual presentation, his body language and voice were not congruent with his words; he seemed very uncomfortable. I asked him how committed he was to the company goals. He was taken aback but then responded, “Not at all. I don’t believe in what they are doing.” I replied, “All of my coaching won’t make a bit of difference if you’re telling stories you don’t believe in. Your audience senses a lack of authenticity immediately. We need to find a company issue you do support or perhaps the Speaker’s Bureau isn’t a good fit.” He agreed. Later I heard he left the company.

Your voice, body language and words should all say the same thing. Otherwise, the audience gets mixed messages and end up confused. Being authentic starts from the inside. The closer you get to your identity, the more powerful you will be. And you will find that effective body language happens naturally. Are you fortunate enough to be speaking on subjects you are passionate about? Keep it simple. Don't try to imitate others.Guard against an increasing online virtual life because there is a tendency to construct artificial profiles that can overflow into reality.
Have faith in yourself just as you are. Do your homework. Believe what you have to say is important, useful to your audience and represents you. Mother Teresa fought against self-doubt on a daily basis. However, she was an authentic saint because her actions were always saintly.

In Margery Williams' The Velveteen Rabbit, the Skin Horse explains becoming real. "It doesn't happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That's why it doesn't happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don't matter at all, because once you are Real you can't be ugly, except to people who don't understand."

Just think, one of the few perks of growing old is that we will become much better speakers because we become more authentic!
Resources; The Art of Possibility: Transforming Professional and Personal Life by Rosamund and Benjamin Zander. Mr. Zander is conductor of the Boston Philharmonic and Mrs. Zander is an executive coach and therapist. Inspiring book that invites us to become passionate communicators, leaders and performers.
Authentic? Get Real., NY Times, Sept 11,2011, Vol CLX, No55 535

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Twin Peaks Festival - Connect. Engage. Entertain.

This weekend I attended the 19th Twin Peaks Festival.I played Sylvia Horne in the series, married to Richard Beymer from West Side Story. You may recognize Ray Wise in the picture, who played Leland in the series and had a leading role in The Reaper. He will return to Mad Men in the fall. Sheryl Lee was Laura, murdered and wrapped in plastic. Sherilyn Fenn who played my daughter, Audrey, was also there. It was great to see everyone.

175 fans from all over the world, including Austria, Canada, Scotland, Australia, etc. I’m always amazed at how long fans have kept the series alive. Besides touring the actual sites where the program was filmed, attendees ate cherry pie and ordered a “damn good cup of coffee,” participated in a character costume contest, and watched Fire Walk With Me at the Seattle Art Museum.

The fan's favorite weekend activity is when they can ask a panel of actors questions about what happened during the filming. The five actors came up with lively, entertaining responses; it was a tribute to their improvisational abilities. It’s hard to remember the obscure details from over twenty years ago when you’ve played many other roles since then. But the enthusiastic audience cheered, laughed or clapped at every utterance. How nice it would be if we got that kind of reception and favorable response for our everyday presentations!

I’ve mentioned before that a speaker needs to adapt and embrace technology. This was certainly the case Saturday night. When I looked out into the audience, I wasn’t able to make much eye contact or even see faces. There had to be 175 iphones, ipads, cameras and video cameras trained on our every movement and recording every word! We all knew our responses would be posted immediately on multiple sites on the internet. It could be daunting for a business speaker but actors seem to relish being in the spotlight.

It was a fun time for all. Another time I will write about being directed by the brilliant David Lynch. He had much to teach his actors about connecting, engaging and entertaining audiences.

Check out the 2011 Twin Peaks panel at:

Friday, July 22, 2011

Make Yourself Indispensable!

Is anyone indispensable? Could your customers or company or someone in your personal life be unable to function without you? Probably not - but perception is reality and if someone else perceives that they can’t do without you, you are indispensable.

The explorer Admiral Robert Peary made his final assault to reach the North Pole in 1909. Four Inuit natives were to accompany him and carry the supplies. He could only take one other man with him. He chose Matthew Hensen, his black colleague, for this historical event. Why? Because Mr. Hensen had learned how to build igloos, he had learned how to repair dog sleds and most importantly, he had learned how to speak the Inuit language so he could communicate with the Inuits. Even more critically, he could communicate with the dogs, who only understood Inuit commands. He was truly indispensable.

You may be interviewing for a job or trying to hang onto a job, start a business or accelerate your career. Ask yourself:
1.What are your real strengths that can make you indispensable?
2.What are your customer’s goals? Your company’s goals?
3.What obstacles stand in their way of obtaining those goals?
4.How can your uniqueness minimize or eliminate those obstacles? How can you end up being a hero?
5.What innovative ideas, services or products will your customers or company need that they aren’t even aware of?

I believe the combination of a unique talent plus superior communication skills can make you indispensable in the coming years. You'll need to be comfortable with rapid change and march to a different drummer. You'll need to develop a special built-in radar and keep looking for and asking, what is next? Learn to absorb a great deal of information, synthesize this data and then extract only that which is relevant and of value. Then succinctly and effectively communicate this to others so you can bring your amazing ideas to life.

You can’t sell peanuts if you’re at the end of the parade. Step forward,create your own unique trend and lead the way!

“What another would have done as well as you, do not do it. What another would have said as well as you, do not say it. Be faithful to that which exists nowhere but in yourself- and thus make yourself indispensable.
...Andre Gide,1897