audience analysis

How to Make Your Audience Listen When Public Speaking

By Wikimania2009 Beatrice Murch (originally posted to Flickr as Audience) [CC BY 2.0 or CC BY 3.0], via Wikimedia CommonsDoes your audience tune out? Do you have trouble keeping them engaged?  It's challenging enough to get the attention of one listener. It's even harder to command a large audience. With less time to do more, competing priorities and so much incoming data, most audiences are on sensory overload. It's no wonder people are on their smart phones instead of listening to you. How can you grab attention in an A.D.D. world?

Here are 3 simple tips to get any audience to listen to you: Provoke, Evoke, Poke.

Provoke. Are you delivering the same old same old? A professional speaker shared a recent experience he had with his audience. During the beginning of his presentation he looked out on a group actively engaged with their phones. A few minutes later he noticed heads starting to bob up. Then they put their phones down and started to listen. Apparently he had said something that got their attention.  Step one is to provoke the audience by delivering new information, controversial content or something that is thought provoking. It doesn't have to be cutting edge but it should be something that makes them think. How can you say something in a new way? How can you connect the dots in a way that they haven't heard before?

Evoke. Beyond thought provoking content, strive to evoke an emotional response. The best way to trigger an emotional experience is through stories and humor. Help the audience experience a feeling as you take them through a journey of highs and lows. When information is anchored to an emotion, the message sticks. Think of a moment of crisis. Most people can remember where they were during the 911 attack in New York City. What will evoke an emotion in your audience? Try showing a motivational video clip or a funny cartoon.  I remember watching a video of a woman who was confined to a wheel chair who took took her first skydive jump strapped to the instructor. There wasn't a dry eye in the house. Whenever there is strong emotion, the audience will be engaged.

Poke. Another way to get your audience to listen is to poke them physically. Get them out of their heads and into their bodies. Invite them to enter the world of activity. Most audience members expect to sit back and be lectured. Don't spoon feed them. Make them part of the presentation. It can be as simple as asking them to repeat a refrain. Repetition is powerful. Ask them to stand and turn toward their partner. Let them participate in a poll. One speaker would sporadically flash a slide of a fish. Whenever they saw the fish, the group was expected to do a clapping rhythm the speaker taught them. Their eyes were glued to the screen as they eagerly anticipated the flashing fish.

And if getting them away from their phones is like taking away Linus' blanket, follow this old adage: If you can't beat 'em, join 'em. I project hashtags for my presentations, along with my twitter handle and ask them to tweet. It causes the audience to listen and you also get social media klout.

The most important question is: Are you listening to the audience? March is Listening Awareness month. Remember to listen.

Adrian Miller Speaks About Growing Your Business

Adrian Miller rocked the audience this morning when she gave a knockout presentation entitled 4 1/2 Ways To Grow Your Business. As a public speaker Adrian was dynamic, pragmatic, and drove home her message with humor. Her tips for increasing sales were appropriate for public speaking and giving presentations. Her 4 1/2 tips included:

1. Be Different 2. Stay on the Grid 3.Qualify 4.Probe 4 1/2. Quantify everything

So how does this relate to presentations? Speakers who are different are memorable. But being memorable isn't enough. You must stay on the grid. Speakers can stay front of mind by sharing ideas and information that add value to their customers and audience. It's important to qualify the audience by conducting a listener profile. The more you know about the audience the more effective the presentation will be. This involves the use of probing skills prior to the presentation. But masterful presenters probe the audience during the presentation by taking a quick poll to create engagement. Finally, be sure to survey the audience so you can quantify results. You may have a good feeling about your speech but don't rely on gut feelings. To measure your speaking performance it's better to compile audience comments and a numerical rating scale.That kind of process will give any public speaker real time data that can be quantified.

So why did Adrian give 4 /12 tips? To be different! Weren't you curious about the 1/2 tip? What have you done as a presenter to differentiate yourself from other public speakers?





Public Speaking: Entice Your Audience to Come to You

A coaching client called me because she was about to have a performance discussion with her boss. She wanted to be promoted and knew she had to be a clear, confident, and convincing communicator. But there was one presentation obstacle that she wasn't sure she could overcome. Her boss liked to watch financial news on TV when people were in the office. She wondered how she could command his attention, gain his respect, and make herself heard. In keeping with my philosophy, (if you can't beat 'em, join 'em), we decided to make a three minute video. That's right! Showing a video would get his attention. My client would speak into the video camera as if she were speaking directly to her boss. She would talk about her credentials and her accomplishments and then add a couple of quick video testimonials from her biggest supporters in the company.  Thinking creatively would get his attention,   position herself as an innovative, outside -the box -thinker, and certainly make her more memorable than any of her colleagues.

Last month, I wrote about Public Speaking: When Science Meets Art, which is a great example of using creativity when presenting. In 2012 the stakes will be higher.  Greater creativity and innovation will be needed for communicators and public speakers to get noticed, stand out, and be heard. And video marketing will play an important role.

Matt Damon Can Act. But Can He Speak?

Matt Damon is a good actor but is he a good public speaker? Every year while watching the Academy Awards, I'm amazed at the poor quality of the acceptance speeches.  It would seem that a professional actor would be a good speaker. The major public speaking flaw of these acceptance speeches is they go on too long and the actors ramble. So after reading Matt Damon's speech to the teachers' rally in Washington, D.C. I would give him high marks on a simple, to the point, and brief presentation.  What lessons can we learn? He begins by complimenting the audience and gets right to the point. He talks about how he flew from Vancouver to demonstrate it was important for him to be there. This creates rapport with the audience. He establishes his credibility when he speaks  about his mother being a teacher, his experience as a student and the impact of his teachers on his success today.  He addresses the current issues of teaching to achieve test scores vs " encouraging creativity and original ideas; knowing who students are,  seeing their strengths and helping them realize their talents". Mr. Damon ends by acknowledging teachers for their impact even in the face of criticism and unproductive reforms.  He begins his speech on a  high note and he ends on a high.  He challenges the audience during times of negative media to remember that there are millions who stand behind them.  He followed Franklin D. Roosevelt's  sage public speaking advice, "Be sincere, be brief and be seated."

To read his speech click here.

Casey Anthony: Persuasive Presentations and Getting Away with Murder

Watching a national murder trial is a lesson in the power of persuasive public speaking.The verdict for Casey Anthony was NOT GUILTY. I was shocked. I didn't see that coming. Eighty per cent of people who were polled thought the mother had killed her child and that she got away with murder. Yet, she walked away a free woman. How was the defense team able to win the case? Let's look at this from the perspective of persuasive speaking. In every trial, both the prosecution and defense need to establish a relationship with the jury. And every public speaker must have a relationship with the audience. But that's not enough.

To win the case, the defense must cast doubt in the minds of the jury. The prosecution must be able to build a convincing case. In the Casey Anthony case, the dense attorney failed to paint Casey Anthony as a sympathetic figure but he was successful at casting doubt. The prosecution had a good case but why didn't they win? There was enough circumstantial evidence. Was it that the jury needed DNA evidence to convict her? Was the single hair in the trunk of the car not good enough?

The failure to persuade came down to strategy. There was enough circumstantial evidence to connect the dots. What was not clear was whether the death was planned or an accident that was covered up. Clearly, the mother was involved. So why didn't the jury convict? Because the prosecution aimed too high. They wanted the death penalty for first degree murder. And because of this the jury couldn't convict the defendant. They didn't feel there was enough evidence. Had the prosecution aimed for manslaughter without a death penalty they would have had a greater chance of winning.

Here's the lesson for public speakers. When it comes to persuasion, the higher the stakes, the stronger your evidence must be. But it goes beyond building a strong logical case. You must take into account the emotions of and consequences on the audience you want to persuade. In business, you may try to persuade employees to take a pay cut. But if they believe it's a step that will lead to layoffs, you'll never persuade them. The consequences are too great. The speaker would need an airtight case and flawless evidence in order to get agreement. How often do people try to get buy-in thinking they have all the right reasons and evidence only to be shot down? Without considering the emotional impact, responsibility and consequences to the audience, chances are they'll push back.

To influence and persuade, public speakers must go beyond the evidence and adopt the right strategy. The Casey Anthony jury didn't want the death of the defendant on their conscience as long as there was a "reasonable doubt". The lesson for persuasive speakers is consider the stakes-and then plan your strategy. What do you think?

Difficult Audiences: The Resister

Every public speaker dreads the resistant participant. This negative person can derail your presentation fairly quickly.  When handling  any difficult audience member, the key is to use the right strategy. In this brief video on handling difficult audiences, you'll learn how to keep control and minimize resistance so that you can give a knockout presentation.

Difficult Audiences: The Poor Loser

What do you do when you encounter a poor loser? If you're giving a keynote speech to a large audience this won't be an issue. But if you facilitate groups, or give seminars you will be interacting with the audience. Although a poor loser may rarely surface, he or she can disrupt the group if you don't know how to handle this difficult audience personality. Watch this brief video to lean how to handle difficult audience members.

Difficult Audiences: The Complainer

One of the most annoying difficult audience members is the complainer, a.k.a., the whiner. Nothing you do pleases them. They complain about everything. Yet, many public speakers make this one mistake when trying to deal with them.  Find out what it is by watching the brief video on handling difficult audiences.

Difficult Audiences: The Sidetalker

Public speakers, facilitators, and trainers are often challenged by disruptive audience members. One of the most irritating disruptions is side-talking.

You have an important message you prepared and while you're delivering your presentation, you're competing with the chattering in the room. It may be a couple of people having a side conversation or there may be a buzz in the audience because the group discussion went off track. What do you do? How do you handle a difficult audience when the issue is side-talking? When should you ignore it and how should you intervene? Watch this brief video to find out.

Difficult Audiences: The Expert

What do you do when you encounter an expert or know-it-all in your seminar? Public speakers must be able to handle difficult audiences, yet each personality is different. It's important to know what is driving the disruptive behavior in order to keep control of the audience.  In this brief video you'll learn how to manage the expert.

Difficult Audiences: The Dominator

Public speakers, facilitators, and trainers must be able to manage difficult audience behavior. One of the more challenging personalities is the dominator. This person can be disruptive because of a need to control. The risk is that the speaker or facilitator may get into a power struggle. And this is a losing strategy. Watch this brief video to learn how to handle the dominator.

Difficult Audiences: The Rambler

Public speakers and trainers need to be able to manage difficult audiences. One difficult audience member is the rambler or storyteller. You'll recognize this personality because they love to talk. During the question and answer period this is the person who can't get to the point. During a discussion they have trouble staying on message and while they may be entertaining, they can dominate a conversation. This can cause the presentation to go off track and for the speaker to lose control. Watch this brief video to learn how to handle the rambler.

You Say Goodbye, I Say Hello: Non-Verbal Communication in India

Today public speaking is no longer restricted to your local community or company. It's a global world and that means sooner or later you'll speak internationally or your audience will comprise multinationals. It's imperative for speakers to be savvy about cross cultural communication. It's so easy to unknowingly  insult the audience. All it takes is the wrong gesture. This video will expand your awareness and your presentation skills. Students created this simple and entertaining presentation to teach you how to communicate when speaking in India.

14 Ways to Present a Positive Image

It's the season for holiday parties and networking. Networking is a form of public speaking. Excellent presentation skills can draw people in and keep them interested.

Here are a few tips for making a good impression:

1. Own the room. Stand tall and walk in with confidence. 2. Smile. You'll appear more approachable and confident. 3. Be the first to reach out. Extend your hand and give a frim handshake. A weak handshake is an immediate turn off. 4. Look directly into someone's eyes. Don't scan the room while talking to one person. 5. Don't chew gum. 6. Speak clearly and pause. Sloppy or hurried speech is perceived as negative. Eliminate slang. 7. Be fully present. Focus on the person and listen non-verbally with body language and with words. 8. Ask questions about them instead of talking about yourself. 9. Find common ground quickly.This will build instant rapport. 10. Give compliments. 11. Paraphrase. It's a form of acknowledging people. This skill makes you very attractive. It communicates you're listening. 12. Have something interesting to say. Comment on the other person's interests. 13. Be a giver. Offer a tip or an introduction to others. Give without expecting anything in return. 14. Mirror the other person. Match their speaking rate, volume level, and words. If they speak fast, quicken your pace. If they are soft-spoken, lower your volume. People like people who are most like them.

Remember:   It takes 7 seconds or less to make a good first impression.You're always on stage.