Entertaining your Audience
By Jeff Anello
It was 6am on a Friday morning, about five years ago, the sun was shining and the birds were singing and I was a nervous wreck because this wasn’t just any Friday morning, this was presentation day. A friend had asked me to present to a group of hundreds at a school and although preparation and practice were already apart of my daily routine in the past few weeks, this was the moment, make or break - ready or not - it was show time! As prepared as can be, my nerves were jumping up and down like a child who just entered a bouncy castle after eating a pound of chocolate birthday cake. Needing to calm down and relax my heart rate it was time to try a few breathing techniques learned from the lamaze class that I watched on television the night before, no use! There were all staring at me and judging me and the sweat was already dripping down my forehead, but with a wipe of the brow - it was “Go Time” now!
Connecting with your audience may seem like a tough task. The mountain can seem to become bigger and bigger and the climb looks steeper and steeper as “Go Time” approaches. The more one may try to maintain a focus on the presentation, the harder it seems to remember.
Whether you're a performer, public speaker, class teacher or just a person who wants to make a good impression at tomorrow's meeting with the new boss, it is extremely important to remember they are your audience and you are there to provide value and entertain. YES ENTERTAIN!
If you are the type of person that seems scared and shy when it comes to presenting - just know that you are not alone - it is the number one fear for us humans! Here are some real people with real fears:
“I get all shakey and dizzy when I have to do public speaking, it's awful and I can never come across as strongly as i'd like to” - Tim
“I feel like i'm always 10x more scared to conduct an oral presentation than anyone else. I don’t really fear much in life, only speaking and reading in public. When i go up there, i have a very hard time looking up, and even speaking.” - Rachel
“I'll tell you all, ever since I starting researching this topic my fears have gotten even worse, which is hard to imagine for me. I cannot believe this inner demon comes out every time I need to speak in public. Outside of that arena I am very social and confident. However, I cannot seem to get over this fear. - Domino
However daunting this may seem, it can be made simple with just a few tips that are designed to attract and attain the attention of the audience. Fortunately, after the fiasco five years ago, it’s been proven that these types of skills can enhance and prepare you for the next presentation:
1. STRONG ENTRANCE - Part of being a great performer starts from the moment the audience sees you! Depending on what type of presentation you are giving this is the time when the audience is looking and of course judging.
They are trying to figure out who you are, why you are here and do they care to listen to what you have to present. It's critical to help answer those questions within the first 20 seconds and continue to increase trust between your performance and the audience from that moment until the 3 minute mark - as people tend to check out mentally if they are not Intrigued by that time.
KEY TIPS: Keep your head and chest up, smile, strong walk and eye contact with everyone in the audience!
2. EYE CONTACT AND EMOTION - As mentioned it's critical to answer the audience's questions within the first 20 seconds. If your presentation allows then this is the time to enter or speak while scanning the audience.
Make sure to scan from left to right and back while attempting to connect to each eye in the crowd. Since most people will not be looking at you it is important to connect with each one who does on the first scan and then on the re-scan to attempt to make eye contact with those who did not look at you before.
KEY TIPS: Find the smiling faces mixed in the crowd. Everyone in the audience is important when you have a message to deliver so don't focus only on the “important” people. Even try to smile at any grumpy guys and gals.
3. PHYSICAL GESTURES - make sure you aren't boring ! Move around, use hand gestures, be demonstrative at moments to gain the attention and have people say “this is different” - suggestions toward being loud and expressive are always better than being quiet and timid.
Most people tend to have a “tick” or a physical action that they may do often that is distracting like touching their nose, or scratching their ears, or tapping to much. Noticing what you do is key
KEY TIPS: Practice in a mirror to see what feels and looks natural.
4. ASK AND ENGAGE - Now this doesn't not imply that you ask someone in the audience to get engaged - although it would be a surprise if you are planning to marry someone in the audience and wanted to make it memorable - but this implies to asking the audience questions that they can compartmentalism about themselves or the topic.
Stay away from rhetorical questions as most people find them meaningless and they will disconnect from the purpose of asking a question which is to engage. Once asked feel the vibe of the room and respond according to those emotions by engaging you thoughts and feelings with others. Share a sense of connection with your audience that makes it a valuable presentation for both you and others.
KEY TIPS: Meet and greet people before and after the presentation. This will make you feel more comfortable with your audience and of course it's always good to ask and listen for feedback to improve on each performance.
5. TELL A STORY-
It's best to connect to the audience by telling a story. Revealing a time in your life can humanize this process and provide a sense of familiarity to a situation that everyone has experienced.
Try to picture yourself in a house - each room has a story - walk through that house, while giving your speech and you will find it easy to recollect your talking points and share moments of your past with others.
KEY TIPS: Don’t be scared to add or start with a story that resonates with the topic if that helps to break the ice.
6. PREPARE AN OUTLINE AND PRACTICE -
Now that you gained YOUR AUDIENCE's attention make sure you know what you want to say! Every audience wants to be apart of the presentation, its real it's live, make it that way but make sure not to belabour your ideas or digress too much or you may just as quickly loose their attention.
Just like trust, once you have lost it, it is tough to gain it back. That is why i suggest to have a script prepared and practiced. Many people will use an outline, an although that is helpful it doesn't give you enough detail and clarity for your mind to consider during the practice process. Keep it as short as possible. Write out words you know must be said, clearly state the reason and understand that once you have a script, it is now down to memorizing the key points.
KEY TIP: Presenters practice until they get it right, but professional performers practice until they can’t get it wrong. Do your best to prepare yourself with a script, outline or even audio recording until you are ready to present!
I hope these tips are useful and will provide value for your prevention and the audience you wish to reach! Preparing for your presentation with just a few of these ideas in mind should help eliminate the fear that we all have in presenting.
Article written by Jeff Anello - CONTACT VIA EMAIL firstname.lastname@example.org