Different Audiences Improve Presentation Skills
by Chris King
presenters, we can fall into ruts and become complacent about our speaking
techniques - especially if we are speaking often and to similar types
of audiences who appreciate our presentations.
I feel that my speaking
and presenting effectiveness jumped to a whole new skill level when I
started to work with diverse audiences in different situations and with
different material. In this article I will share some of the different
types of audiences and presentations that have helped me grow as a presenter.
I realize that they will not be the same for you, but I hope they will
start you thinking about ways you can grow in power as a presenter.
I learned as a presenter from becoming a group fitness instructor?
"What are you suggesting, Chris?" you ask. "I don't have
the inclination to teach aerobics at all!" I realize that, however,
I want to share the experience and what I have learned from working with
people of all ages, fitness levels, and interests and in a different arena.
These lessons can be applied to all presentations.
audience members must know that you sincerely care about them. My
students know that I am focused on them, their progress and how they
are doing. I truly care about them. I want them to be safe, to be challenged
and to come back again. There are other fitness instructors who are
so focused on watching themselves in the mirror and worrying about the
impression they are making that the students in the class lose interest
and motivation. I am always available to answer questions and listen
to them after class. As presenters, we must care about our audience
members more than about ourselves and have the true goal of serving
prepared, prepared, and prepared. I know that I have harped on this
forever, but I really discovered the importance of preparation and practice
when starting to teach a fitness class. You are dealing with a whole
new challenge. There is the music, people who are not in time with the
music (you must be, however), people doing something completely different
from what you are, people arriving late and people leaving early. Without
over-preparation, you can easily lose your stride and focus and also
lose the attention and motivation of those in the class (or in your
and use the power of transitions. When we know where we are going
with a topic or presentation, we often speed along expecting our audience
to keep up. By teaching a fast moving fitness class, I learned to let
class members know ahead of time what was coming next. I don't just
jump into the upcoming move, I say something like, "On the count
of eight, we will " That way, everyone is with me and not
frustrated - they don't miss a beat. During a presentation it is important
to give audience members a way to jump to the next topic, by segueing
or pausing, showing a visual, asking a question, etc. That way, they
don't miss a beat or the important point you are trying to make.
how to use a microphone properly. When I teach my large fitness
classes (35 or more people), I use a headset style of microphone. With
the music blaring (louder - but not too loud - music helps with motivation)
it is important to have a working mike that sounds good and doesn't
keep needing a new battery. I have learned how to adjust the position
of the microphone, the loudness of it and my voice and use of batteries
for maximum delivery. All of this knowledge has helped me when presenting
to any group. I am no longer michrophone-phobic.
if you have an audience of one or two, present with the same energy
as when you are presenting to a crowd. Besides teaching large classes
at a large health club, I also teach fitness classes at a small, exclusive
club, where sometimes only one or two people show up. It doesn't matter.
I still act pleased to see them, and sometimes make the comment, "Well,
today we have the quality, not the quantity." I want them to know
that I care and I always work as hard for one person as I do for 30.
So, if only a handful of people show up for a presentation or workshop,
act like it is a crowd.
I learned as a presenter, by performing as a storyteller? As a professional
storyteller, I perform for families, adults and children of all ages.
Now, you are probably asking, "Why would I ever want to present to
children?" As a presenter, you know the value of being able to tell
a captivating story, but you may not realize the value of telling stories
to children. Children are much more honest than adults. An adult might
not be pleased with your presentation, but probably won't say anything.
Children, on the other hand, will let you know immediately, either by
saying something or acting up instead of paying attention. They are not
an easy crowd to please, and I tell stories to all ages starting with
three-year-olds. This is what I've learned from this venue.
with audience members will keep our presentations lively and have participants
who are listening and paying attention. With the younger children,
I learned immediately the value of involving them the repetition of
a phrase, word or action. Then, when telling stories to families, I
noticed how involved the parents were becoming and how they were obviously
enjoying the involvement. As a presenter, think of ways you might be
able to involve the audience in a fun way. Remember that adults are
grownup kids at heart. I have used rhyming lines, call and response
and physical stretching, mild exercising and jumping.
be afraid to act a little foolish, outrageous and out of your comfort
zone. It might not always work, but when I try crazy things with
children (for example, putting on a rubber pig's nose and oinking),
we all have a blast and it develops rapport. When a presenter plays
the fool on purpose, the audience usually loves it, and laughter helps
form a bond of rapport - just like it does with the children. We all
love to do stunts a bit off the beaten path - it just takes some courage
the first time.
feedback from the eyes and facial expressions of your listeners.
Never, never as a presenter follow the suggestion to look over the heads
of your audience members. We can tell how we are doing and how well
we are reaching our listeners by looking at their faces and into their
eyes. Granted, you may see some faces that are perpetually grumpy or
bored looking, but if you see that a large number of eyes are glassing
over, it is probably time to shift gears and start on a new track. When
I have told a story that didn't elicit much positive feedback, I know
it is time to pull a different type of story out of my hat or off the
top of my head. That is why it is important to over-prepare. Always
have lots of extra material ready as a substitution for what isn't working.
my challenge to you. What different type of audience can you find
to present to? What different type of material can you prepare and present?
By trying both and getting out of our comfort zone, we learn and grow
more than we can ever imagine. And, in turn, the power of our presentations
and speaking skills will grow and grow!
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