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