Winning over the Audience
Winning over your audience is a key skill for any speaker, and you do not have long to make that winning impact. Your audience is your major concern. Without an audience, who needs a speaker? This article gives some tips and advice on how to grab them from your opening statement.
Copyright (c) 2007 The College Of Public Speaking
Many people are filled with dread when presenting to a live audience and they cannot wait to get it over with.
As long as the message has been delivered and reinforced (usually by distracting and overloaded PowerPoint slides) that's the job done. Thinking about how to win over the audience is the last thing on people's mind but it is absolutely crucial.
It's vital to get the audience on board immediately, otherwise they'll have switched off in the first 5 minutes; that should be regarded as a catastrophe, but regrettably it is alarmingly common.
In recent years I have made a point of asking people what they thought about a presentation that we have all sat through and it is truly horrifying how many people very quickly went off into their own dream world, so dull was the presenter.
It is not uncommon for 100 people to sit through an hour's presentation and only 10 to be still listening after a few minutes – imagine all that lost working time.
What are the steps to winning over an audience?
Good audience reconnaissance is never wasted. Find out who they are and what are their expectations.
Imaginge a tax inspector addressing an audience of senior accountants. His opening statement goes like this: "All SMEs will be refunded their last 5 years tax contributions." This should get their attention. We will reduce this burden at a stroke by taking the following actions …'.
As long as the actions made sense to the audience they will have been won over completely and utterly. The rest of the speech will now be so much easier to deliver.
Compare this to a speaker with an audience comprised solely of people working within finance departments being greeted with the remarks ‘this initiative will allow us to reduce those working in finance areas by 50%'. No great surprise to hear that this initiative was resisted with all the gusto of a sprinter trying to win Gold at the Olympics!
Secondly - when you deliver this audience winning statement look them straight in the eye as you say it and see how the audience rapport builds as they look back at you. Feel the bond forging between the two of you as they do.
Thirdly - when you have finished delivering that winning statement pause briefly to allow the audience to absorb the statement and quite possibly shake their head in agreement.
Fourthly, rhetorical questions is a useful technique to passively engage the audience.
Knowing that you have won an audience over is one of the best feelings in the speaking world.
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