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Your Audience Comes First!

Congratulations, you’ve been asked to speak in front of an audience! What a great opportunity! I know some of you may not be so delighted with the thought of getting up to speak in front of a large crowd and you wouldn’t be alone. Over 90% of adults rate public speaking as their number one fear. However, if you take your audience’s comfort level into consideration first, you’ll be a public speaking hit right from the start.

So what’s the first step? The first step is more of a mental exercise than a physical one, and it’s not about planning your speech (even though that is a very important step that must be done early.) No, the first step is you must consider your audience.

Unfortunately many speakers don’t take the time to adequately plan for their audience’s basic needs and this can turn a great presentation, whether it’s on the main stage in front of a thousand people or in a meeting in your office with three others, into a waste of time in a few short moments.

I guess if I were to wrap it all up in one word, your main concern is for your audience’s comfort. You have to think about how you, the speaker, are going to make them feel comfortable physically, psychologically, and emotionally. Sounds like a big job doesn’t it? In addition you also need to consider whether you will be speaking in front of a small group or a large group and whether you are addressing a team of executives or a group of soccer moms.

Remember, a comfortable audience is an attentive audience and an attentive audience is the key to your success.

Now think back to a presentation you had to suffer through where the speaker was monotonous, the room was too cramped, the air stuffy and you were in desperate need of a bathroom break. How much of that presentation do you remember? Chances are, very little. Don’t underestimate the power of a full bladder!

To do list

– Check out the venue, banquet hall or board room ahead of time.

– Take a good look at the seating arrangements – is it adequate and appropriate for your talk?

– What about the room? Is it too big, too small? Is it well ventilated?

– When are you scheduled to speak? The first speaker after lunch is not the spot you want as attention spans dwindle after a good meal.

– What is the gender of the crowd? An all male audience is very different than an all female audience and your talk must be tailored specifically to their interests.

– What is the average age of your audience members? Addressing a group of teens is not the same as addressing a group of seniors.

– What about professions? Are you talking to a group of unionized workers, or upper management?

– What about the size of your audience? The dynamics of a small group compared to those of a large crowd are worlds apart.

So far we have looked at the comfort levels of your audience. We’ve considered the demographics of your group and some dynamics involved with small groups and larger groups. But is it all really necessary? Absolutely! Preparing your audience for an experience of a lifetime, namely listening to you, is worth its weight in gold.

Here’s a trade secret you’ll want to remember. Did you know that people only buy products or services or seek advice from people they like? It’s true. If your audience likes you, you might even get away with having a really poor presentation because they want you to succeed. If they like you, they will listen until the end, they will buy your book and they will heed your advice. If they don’t like you, there is nothing you can do to change it and you have certainly lost out on a great opportunity of additional exposure.

You can have the actual cure for cancer but if your crowd doesn’t like you, it won’t matter because they will zone you out. So make yourself likeable and the best way to do that is to always consider the needs and wants of your audience.

By Heidi Crux