Anytime you’re giving a speech, always remember it’s a conversation. Sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we’re presenting a monologue. It’s easy to think of a speaker as the vehicle delivering a load of wisdom. In reality, every speech is a conversation. A two-way conversation with the audience.
It’s important to remember that this dialogue is not with the audience as a group, but rather a one-on-one conversation with each person. You’re speaking individually to each person in the audience. For example, you’re making eye contact with one person at a time. When you find your self mechanically spraying the audience with eye contact, you are actually NOT making eye contact with anyone.
Eye contact is the first step in the public speaking conversation. I always define good eye contact as conversational eye contact. I genuinely consider myself speaking to one person at a time. When you’re truly connected with one person, everyone in the audience feels connected to you. If your eyes are wandering nervously around the room, nobody feels connected. If the audience is large, perhaps 1000 people, when I make eye contact in the back part of the room I focus on actually connecting with one specific person. In reality, several people feel you’re looking right at them. The important thing is for your to feel the connection with one specific person so you avoid the feeling of “speaking to an audience.”
Receiving energy from the individuals in the audience is important. It is partly the appreciation of the audience being sent to you. It is partly your own energy being reflected back to you. The value is how it energizes you. There is also great value in the feedback it provides you as to “how you are doing.” If you’re tuned in, you’ll be aware of signals from the audience: Are they excited? Are they bored? How much did they like the humor you just shared with them? If you’re really tuned in to their energy, it will boost your presentation to a new level. I’ve found that my performances on the improv comedy stage have been a great benefit to my connection with the audience.
The room chatter is something to pay attention to. Apart from the individual connection and energy feedback you receive from persons in the audience, there is the environment of the room. You will know, from the feedback of the room as a whole, how your talk is going. When you’re telling your best story, is the room silent? Is there distracted conversation from the back of the room? Is the serving staff making noise? Is there a noise from outside the room that might be taking focus away from your talk? Don’t be oblivious to the “sounds of the jungle” while you’re speaking.
Taking notes immediately after the talk is a great way to learn lessons from each talk. Giving a talk does not give you experience for the record book. LEARNING something from the talk is what gives you experience. Evaluate your connection with the audience members, the energy you traded with the audience members, the sounds of the jungle while you spoke. What was great? What could be done differently? Consider all the elements that are important to you and create a critique form you can complete immediately after the talk. You can’t fill it in a week later. You need to do it right after the program.
Take your awareness to the next level and focus on some of these ideas to tune you in to the audience and to connect you with individuals. It will connect your speech, your stories, your humor, and YOU to the individual listener who came to enjoy your program.
© Copyright 2007 John Kinde