Energize the Audience Before You Speak

This month’s question:

“I am in the unenviable position of having to speak after a long list of people. Any suggestions on how to revive the audience for my presentation?”

Response from the editors:

As you approach the lectern, look around to gauge the mood in the room. Are people fidgeting or slumped over in their seats? Do their expressions indicate that they are tired or bored? If the audience looks tired or restless, ask them to stand up and move around. Tell a joke or a short, funny story while they stretch. Then enthusiastically begin your opening remarks.

Empathize with the audience but emphasize that your speech is worth hearing. Example: “I understand that you’ve been seated in this room for quite some time. I’m the final speaker, and I promise to be brief. The good news is that you will learn a great deal from me in a short time.”

Keep your speech energetic and—above all—brief. If you have to shorten your presentation, use your prepared opening and closing but eliminate anything you can from the body of the speech. If you deliver a forceful, clear and concise closing, you will be the most memorable speaker of the day.

A reader asks:

“I have a tendency to speak too rapidly when giving a presentation. Any suggestions for how to slow down the pace of my delivery?”

March’s Poll Results:

In March’s poll, we asked “Do you accompany your speeches with PowerPoint presentations, handouts, both or neither? Sixty-seven percent of you responded that you use both PowerPoint presentations and handouts.

Quick tips: Post your presentation slides on a Web site, such as www.slideshare.net so audience members can view them later. Or offer to send your slides and additional materials to people who request them by e-mail, which will allow you to capture contact information. Those are easy, inexpensive and effective ways of leaving lasting impressions on your audience. Bonus: You save paper and your audience doesn’t have as much to carry home.

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Delivered each month, American Speaker Forum offers you public-speaking advice and tips for wowing your audience during your next presentation. This resource also offers you a way to ask for feedback on your next speaking engagement and to share your own experience with your colleagues.


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