Sunday, September 30, 2007

Presentation Tip: Talk to Your Audience

Adapted from wilder presentations

Inexperienced presenters, and some experienced ones, often have difficulty actually looking at their audience.

This may partly be due to nerves—If I pretend they’re not there, I won’t be nervous—or staring at notes and slides may be a sign of inadequate preparation.

Some presenters rarely look at anyone for longer than one second, instead spending most of the time looking at the slide and talking to it. This is especially true when there are many diagrams and charts to explain. Rather than point to the information and look at the audience, the presenter points at the information on the screen and looks at it while talking.

But if we are there to talk, we should talk to someone.

I guarantee that when you look at each person in the audience for the count of 3, you will look twice as confident. You'll actually appear to know your subject and want to share it with your audience. This is one of the most important skills of professional presenters. You may think you already do this, but it’s doubtful.

How do you find out whether you maintain eye contact? The next time you give a talk, ask a colleague in the audience to time how long you look at a person. The colleague counts 1-2-3 and observes whether you look at any one person for the count of 3. Then your colleague gives you the feedback after the session.

To be a successful presenter, you must actually talk to a person, not just speak. You can train yourself by practicing with two colleagues. Talk to each one. He or she will give you a nod when you have talked for the count of 1-2-3 while really looking at them for the whole time. Darting eyes back and forth like a hungry iguana do not count. You will improve your poise and presence in front of an audience by 100% when you start to speak to each person.

With a large audience of 80 or more, it is the same. Pick one person to speak to at a time. All the people around that person will experience you speaking to them.

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