16 February 2011

How to Speak in Front of a Crowd: Speech, Presentation, Report - Pt 1

Toastmasters & professional speakers' associations are full of people honing their skills at speaking to audiences.

At random times in our life, we may be called on to present a topic or make a report. To think that you might stand alone, with all eyes on you, with both friendlies and combatants in the crowd . . . well, it's enough to send us to the bathroom!

If the pro's work hard to hone their skills, what of the rest who only speak publicly at random times when called upon? It's like playing golf twice a year and being disappointed your game hasn't improved. It's like dusting off the paint brushes in expectation of a Rembrandt . . .

Let's hear from a pro, my dad, who often inspired crowds, and then left town in a hurry . . . (kidding, Pop)

I would suggest the speaker should NOT give a speech, should NOT use notes, but should rather just talk to the audience... not as a group, but to each individual in the audience.

Engage each individual's eyes at some point in the talk. This applies to a group of just a few or a large audience.

"You" being the most important word in any language, other than a person's name, the speaker should talk about..."YOU". "YOU make the difference" etc. "YOU determine the outcome of any circumstance, either in a positive or negative way." "It's all about YOUR attitude." and so forth.

Don't make a "Canned" talk. Just visit with the audience.

And...............be brief! It's easier to talk for 45 min, and not say a whole lot, than it is to make a good presentation in ten minutes or less. However, the audience will remember what you say in ten minutes but can't possibly remember all you say in the forty five.

And.....you only have 10% of your audience's attention at any one time. So, change your tone of voice, the cadence of your speech and move around to get and hold everyone's attention. Possibly, they will be thinking about your last point and may not keep up with you as you move on to the next point. Help them keep up by doing or saying something that will "grab" their attention again.

Obviously there should be a beginning, a body and a close. Make an outline before you speak., follow same, but DON'T take the outline to the platform.
[sarcasm] If you are going to have an outline, make copies for the audience and let them take it home and read it. You won't even need to appear.

They didn't come to follow the speaker's outline, they came to hear the speaker's talk. If your "talk" is well organized, you and the audience will be able to move from one point to the next. This is one of the things taught by The National Speakers Association. I think it's very important!

If the talk is to be before an audience, the introduction by the M.C. is VERY important. It provides the credibility needed to set the tone of the talk. I always provided a "sample" for the M.C. to use/follow. How else are they going to know what to say? [and they might say something you wouldn't like]

NEVER, EVER.....make a joke about any profession, race, ethnic or marginalized group, etc. You never know who might be offended and even if you don't directly offend someone in your audience, you lose many of them because they all will side with the underdog.....not you! If you want to joke, make the joke at your own expense.

The same with a heckler. Let them do their best/worst. If the speaker is patient, and does not retaliate, the audience will choose the speaker and chastise the heckler.

Don't touch, or even use, a podium if possible. Leaning, holding, hiding behind, etc., are NOT part of a "conversation" the speaker is having with the audience.

To sum up all the above, probably much more than you wanted to read,

When the speaker has a message they believe in, and shares their message in a non-confrontational way by just "talking" to their audience.......it will usually be a success.

Perhaps the most important item might be enthusiasm. " Enthusiasm" comes from the Greek word "enthois", which loosely translated means "The God within".
Speak from the heart and try to make your message change someone's life for the better.
I asked him for a few tips and was thrilled with a fairly thorough summary of everything I need to say in a workshop this week on How To Make a Presentation. He didn't know I was going to publish his advice, and now I'll probably have to pay him. Anyway, all of the above quote was from Stephen J. Shaw, picked up through experience, want to, training and seeing others do it well and badly.

1 comment:

Shanda said...

That was especially special in that it came from Stephen J. Shaw !!