Six Key Indicators Guaranteed to Reduce Audience Stress and Increase Your Applause

By Susman, Karen | Records Management Quarterly, July 1997 | Go to article overview

Six Key Indicators Guaranteed to Reduce Audience Stress and Increase Your Applause


Susman, Karen, Records Management Quarterly


When making a presentation, the idea is to get your audience to pay attention to you. To do that, however, you must first pay attention to them. The best way to ensure that an audience stays alert until the standing ovation is to reduce their stress level. Stress reduces people's ability to listen, to focus, to have an open mind and to take action on your presentation. If the audience views you as insensitive to its needs and only concerned with your own, frustration, cynicism and lack of concentration result. You become a source of stress.

In the practical book, The Overnight Guide To Public Speaking, author Ed Wohlmuth goes beyond "Tell 'em what you're going to tell 'em. Tell 'em. Tell 'em what you told 'em." He suggests six key indicators to let your audience know that "they" are the focus of your interest. The six key indicators are:

* Not wasting time

* Knowing the audience

* Being organized

* Being qualified

* Making points clearly

* Finishing appropriately.

This article will cover all six indicators so that you may become a more effective speaker.

I WON'T WASTE YOUR VALUABLE TIME

You avoid wasting an audience's time in several ways - before, during and after your presentation:

* Be prepared! Know your material and how long it takes to deliver. Follow the 75% rule. If you're scheduled to speak for one hour, plan forty-five minutes of material. Rehearse so you know exactly how long it takes. Plan for announcements, interruptions, other speakers that go over their allotted time and meals that start and end late. Be so familiar with your presentation that you know where you can cut if you need to. Reduce the number of visuals. Only use ones that support and enhance your presentation.

* Check the audio-visual set-up and equipment before the audience enters the room. This means you must arrive thirty minutes early. Even if you're not in charge of the arrangements, when you get up to speak, the audience blames you if a mishap occurs. Know your material so well that you won't be dependent on visuals.

* Write a brief 30-45 second introduction for the person who will introduce you. Include your qualifications to speak for this specific group and topic. End with a segue that transitions into your talk. Mail the introducer the introduction in advance and bring a copy with you.

* Sit poised on the edge of your chair while being introduced. Be ready to rise, approach the audience and begin. Any fumbling with notes, visuals, clothes, hair or microphone signals the audience they're in for a long afternoon.

* Begin your talk without preamble about how nice it is to be with the group, where you just flew in from, the weather or how those Dodgers played last night. Don't apologize for your cold, or that you've been so busy lately you didn't have much time to prepare. Preambles are' cliches and tiresome. Apologies set the audience up for negative expectations.

* Don't begin your remarks with a joke. If it falls flat, you're toast before you've begun. Most jokes offend someone in the audience. And, if the joke doesn't tie in with your topic, you've wasted the audience's time.

* Start with a pertinent, dramatic statistic, quote, anecdote or rhetorical question. Pause to let your opening sink in. It's wise to memorize your beginning and conclusion. You want to be able to make eye contact with your audience, and you can't do that if you're glancing at your notes.

* Be direct. Tell the audience you're aware of their time frame and you won't waste a moment. Say, "In our brief time together..." Or, "During the next twenty minutes..." Or, "I know you're eager to hear... So, I'll get right to the point." Or, "Let's zero in on the meat of the issue."

* End a few minutes early. Audiences receive these minutes as a gift.

* Offer to hang around after the session for those who might want to chat, ask additional questions or request information. …

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