Friday, June 10, 2011

What To Do When You're Losing Your Audience

Losing the audience is one of the most terrifying experiences all presenters want to avoid. First of all, you have to make sure you know it's even happening. It's great to focus on your message but as you're delivering your message, make sure you simultaneously scan your audience looking for "clues" indicating boredom, negative body language, etc.  "Salvage" techniques you use as you're losing your audience depends on the audience, purpose of the talk, and topic. For example, techniques you use to "wake up" a group of high schoolers are different from those you use when speaking to a Board of Directors.

In any case, realizing you're losing your audience and doing something about it early on, is critical. Once you've lost the audience, however, it's next to impossible to bring it  back and you can kiss the lectern goodbye. If that's the case, determining why you lost your audience in the first place, is the key to preventing it from happening in the future. Was it because of a poor delivery or was it because of a presentation that was  unorganized, hard to follow or not relevant to the interests of the audience?  Rather than beating yourself up, learn from the experience and focus on the future using these tips before you get behind the lectern:

  • Ask an SME, colleage or someone who is successful in getting his/her message across to evaluate you.  Make sure this person knows what to look for and has a proven record of presentation saavy and know-how.
  • Seek someone who will be candid and honest with their evaluation of your presentation and delivery. Often what we think and do is usually very different from what the audience sees, perceives and thinks.  Take the suggestions seriously, smooth out the rough edges, and rehearse in front of a mirror or use a video camera or audio recorder.   Keep rehearsing until you feel confident with yourself and your material.  You want to flow effortlessly.
  • Welcome the feedback, good or bad.  The feedback can be invaluable and, if taken seriously, you'll definitely reap the reward of a great applause.   How can you grow and improve as a presenter if you don't know what areas need improvement? This is not the time to be thin-skinned. Don't take it personal. It's not about you, it's about your message.
Getting good feedback as you develop your skills in the creation of a dynamic presentation and in it's delivery, definitely increases the chances that your listeners will stay engaged and interested when the big day comes to present.

Irene P. Zucker
VerbaCom® Executive Development

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