Communicating in front of a large audience

A Reader’s Question:

My boss recently asked me to do demonstrations of new products for groups of customers who visit our retail stores. If I do well with those presentations, I have a shot at a sales position. However, my only experience is working with customers individually. How can I improve my ability to communicate in front of a large audience?

Responses from Readers:

Whether you face one person or a room full of people, the pressure to present a clear message is the same. The following principles, known as the A.M.O.U.R.A. technique, offer tips to craft a message and deliver it effectively:

  • Audience. Focus on the audience’s perception, expectations and needs.
  • Message. Make sure you understand the message. Deliver it in a short and direct manner.
  • Objective. Determine listeners’ expectations of your presentation. Answer the question “Why are we here?” as early as possible in the presentation. That will sustain audience attention and interest throughout your talk.
  • Understanding. Capture the audience’s attention by using confident body language and tone of voice. If they believe your message is important, they will listen.
  • Remember. Before you end your talk, remind the audience of your message and its benefits.
  • Action. Suggest steps that allow your audience to gain the benefits featured in your presentation.

—Magdy Fayed, Consultant, Planning & Business Development

Join a local Toastmasters club. It’s a format that’s friendly and helpful. The basic manuals teach valuable skills. The cost to join is less than $100 a year, including the manuals.

—Jean Moffitt, Scope Aircraft Finance

Response from the Editors:

Polish your presentation skills with preparation:

  • Develop an outline of your talk. List your main points on a sheet of paper or in a word processing document. Use a numbered or bulleted list to keep your thoughts organized. Next, transfer each topic to the top of an index card. Below the topic heading, expand your ideas by writing a description of the information you plan to cover.
  • Create your presentation. Write or type the words you will use. You don’t have to stick to the script for the entire talk. The written document captures the ideas you plan to cover.
  • Practice your delivery. Give your speech in front of a mirror. Note your posture, eye contact and gestures. Next, ask a friend to listen to your presentation. You’ll experience giving the talk in front of someone else. In addition, you may receive some invaluable constructive criticism.

Check these resources for more information on public speaking:

  • American Speaker is a subscription-based website that takes users through the steps of building a presentation. It also features case studies of notable speeches.

Quote of the Week:

“If the shopper feels like it was poor service, then it was poor service. We are in the customer perception business.”

—Mark Perrault, Rally Stores

Tip of the Week:

Draw attention to your message

Grab customers’ attention by using their names. Example: “Mr. Smith, I’d like to point out …” Alternatively, ask a question to spark their interest. Examples: “Are you ready for me to explain the new feature?” or “Did you know that we offer a volume discount on that item?”

—From the editors.

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Each issue of the First-Rate Customer Service Forum offers you tips for improving your customer service skills. Plus, you have the opportunity to request advice on your most vexing customer service problems—and receive feedback from your peers and our panel of editors!


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