Speakers/Presenters: How To Keep Your Audience Involved

When you're on the platform, do you mumble, speak in a monotone, or (heaven forbid!) read your 80-words-on-a-slide PowerPoints verbatim?

It still shocks me to see these mistakes in so many conferences I attend. So few of the other speakers make any effort to create an approachable presentation style and interact with their audience.

Maybe they really are too terrified to make the audience feel valued--and you can stand head and shoulders above the pack with a few simple techniques:

1. Be animated--with your voice, your body language. Don't be afraid to move your hands. Make eye contact. Act as if you're excited about your topic.

2. Just forget about the number of people watching you. Imagine that you have two or three good friends in the audience; speak as if you're talking on the phone with them. You can even pick out a few friendly faces in the crowd to make more than the usual amount of eye contact--and pretend they're your good buddies.

3. Try for personal rapport. If there's a break, mingle and notice name tags. Then, in the Q&A period, you can call these people by name.

4. Keep brief. Don't try to cover a book's worth of knowledge. Pick a few areas to concentrate on, and stick to them--unless, like me, you encourage open and wide-ranging questions, which can take you a bit farther afield. Leave at least half the time for questions, but be prepared to keep talking if you have a dead audience.

5. If there have been other speakers ahead of you on the program, or if you're going more than an hour, lead the audience in a stretch break. Here's one I use a lot: If speaking to business owners, I say, "Reach for higher profits" (stretch arms to ceiling). "Expand your horizons" (arms out to the sides). "Watch the bottom line" (arms to floor). "Contract the budget" (hug yourself). If speaking to community organizers, I change it to "higher objectives" and "down to the grass roots."

Copywriter, marketing consultant, and speaker Shel Horowitz is the author of six books. His two most recent, Principled Profit: Marketing That Puts People First http://www.principledprofit.com and Grassroots Marketing: Getting Noticed in a Noisy World http://www.frugalmarketing.com have both won awards. He is currently starting a campaign to find 25,000 people who will sign--and spread--the Business Ethics Pledge at http://www.principledprofit.com/25000influencers.html

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