7 Ways to Keep Your Audience Awake!

Here are some simple techniques you can use to keep your audience engaged (and awake!) during your next presentation:

Tell a story: As the saying goes, “facts fade, data gets dumped, stories stick!” Our brains are naturally hard-wired for narrative and we teach and learn best via storytelling. That’s not to say that stats and metrics aren’t important but weaving a story or example into them will often be what ultimately persuades the listeners. Magic Phrase = “For example…”

Incorporate names: What’s everyone’s favorite word? Their name! This simple trick can keep everyone on their toes (especially on con calls) and add a bit of flattery, too. “So you can see, John, how the process will be significantly shorter.” “Barbara was sharing with me earlier…”

Ask for a show of hands: Survey questions are highly interactive for audiences, plus they can provide great insights helping you to quickly customize, review, or skip ahead. “How many of you have a social media strategy already in place?” “Have any of you ever been up in a hot air balloon?”

Ask a rhetorical question: These questions aren’t asking for a response, but they’re engaging all the same as audiences try to answer it in their heads. “Have you ever wondered…” “Have you ever found yourself…’

Add a prop: A great technique, especially for those kinesthetic learners in your audience. “I’m going to pass the device around, so you can all feel how lightweight it is.” “As you’ll see in the brochure, the before-and-after shots are quite amazing.”

Ask for their input: “Would anyone care to share how…?” “What do you see as the downside of Option 1?” Be careful here. You run the risk of someone stealing the floor from you, so maintain control of the crowd and the clock.

Demonstrate something: Or better yet, have the audience demo it as you instruct. “When you click on this link, the drop-down box will appear.” “This yoga position is especially good for your back.”

Now you have seven tricks for keeping your audiences heads-up, off of their phones, and engaged in you and your message. And don’t stop with just one of them. Incorporate as many as you can in your presentations and get ready for some positive feedback!

Handling Q & A Like a Pro

Skilled presenters understand the importance of Q & A. If they handle it well, they’ll be able to use this time to convey their confidence and expertise, to reinforce some of the ideas they shared, even add in material they may have left out or glossed over. If a speaker stays positive and in control of their content and delivery, they’ll be able to continue to build credibility with those who agree with them, as well as win over the nonbelievers or those on the fence.

Q & A can also be a vulnerable time for speakers, as they could get tripped up, challenged, or attacked. Time spent brainstorming questions that could be asked, then preparing and practicing effective responses can help speaking pros minimize those fears. They’ve also mastered the four types of Q & A.

At the End of the Presentation

This is the typical point questions are entertained, certainly in more formal settings with larger audiences. The problem with ending with Q & A is that the longer it goes, the fewer and farther between the questions become. The back rows have already started to slip out the door and you end with a smattering of applause from the remnant that remains. And remember—there’s always a chance the questions may turn negative. What’s the last thing you want your audience to hear—your final takeaway? Or that audience member’s hostile take-down of you and your ideas? Pros are able to handle questions positively and concisely, sideline the off-topic questions, and navigate the challenging ones with tact and grace.

Before the Conclusion

This is my personal favorite. Why? If you insert your Q & A before the conclusion, a couple of nice things happen. The audience tends to regulate themselves because they know they still haven’t heard your conclusion. And you get to have the last word. You finish to thundering applause and everyone knows it’s done-done. So try, “Before I wrap-up, I have time for a few questions.” Take 3-4 of them, then move right into your final remarks and action step. Everyone will walk out of the room with your thrilling conclusion ringing in their ears.

Interruptive

Most internal work presentations are met with frequent interruptions from the audience, as they usually see this, not as a true presentation, but as more of a discussion. The executives in the room certainly do. So the trick here is to manage the incoming questions, remember where you were when they stopped you, then find a way to bridge back to your prepared content. Try not to let your answers last longer than the presentation itself. Be as concise as you can, then ask if that answered their question. Better to do that than to assume everyone suddenly wants an intense deep-dive into everything you know on the topic.

No Questions

It’s happened to you, hasn’t it? You ask the crowd if they have questions and they all stare back at you. You literally hear crickets. What should you do? First, don’t panic and, second, give them time! What seems like deafening silence to you isn’t to them. Their brains are processing everything they heard and they’re formulating their questions if you would just give them some time.  So wait, then gently ask again for their questions and, if you still don’t hear any, ask and answer the first one yourself. “You might be wondering…,” or “I’m often asked…,” or “Many people ask me…”  You could also ask a question of the audience – “Of the 3 plans I’ve talked about today, which would be most cost-effective for you?”

Are you a master of all these Q & A situations? Prepare for all four types and you’ll be able to call yourself a Pro!

© Jill Bremer 2018

Can you afford NOT to offer ESL Tutoring at Your Company?

English has become the global language of business. Are your company’s non-native employees equipped to succeed in an English-speaking world? According to a survey conducted by IDG Research, 90% of business leaders say their departments face language challenges. However, only 5% of companies currently offer English-as-a-Second-Language services, according to SHRM’s 2017 Employee Benefits Report.

When workers are able to clearly communicate internally and externally, companies can realize exponential benefits. Work groups become more efficient and personal performances improve. Customer services strengthen as rapport is built easily and workers are better equipped to share accurate information, answer questions, and problem-solve without effort. Relationships can be nurtured when employees feel comfortable making small talk and understand cultural differences and the nuances of language and jargon.

On a personal level, employees feel supported when their organizations provide ESL assistance. According to a recent study, 44% of employees who participate in these types of programs were more engaged and 33% were able to advance within their organization. Their confidence increases as does company loyalty. Retention rates increase resulting in less turnover for organizations.

ESL classes and individual tutoring can be a professional development benefit attractive to many already in your workforce as well as other talented prospects you’d like to bring onboard. ESL offerings that include coaching in other soft skills such as presentation skills, nonverbal communication, and business etiquette can provide non-native speakers with a complete toolkit that will help you create a workforce able to compete anywhere in the world.

Looking for solution that combines ESL tutoring with Executive Presence coaching? Give us a call! Click https://theedgeexecutivecoaching.com/esl-tutoring/ for more info.

QUICK QUIZ – Your Presentation Skills

Here’s a quick quiz to test your presentation skills know-how:

  1. An effective transition is to read the title of each slide as it appears.
  2. A good rate of speech is 140 words per minute.
  3. A speaker should never interrupt someone asking a question.
  4. Laser pointers should be used with slide presentations.
  5. If I want to become a better presenter, I should take a class or find a coach.

Answers can be found by clicking HERE. When you get to that page, scroll to the bottom.

Gestures: The “Ricky Bobby” Dilemma

Do you remember the scene in “Talledega Nights” when Will Farrell’s character, Ricky Bobby, was being interviewed on TV and let his hands float awkwardly into the shot for no apparent reason? Have you ever felt the same way? Most of the people I coach tell me the same thing Ricky Bobby said: “I’m not sure what to do with my hands!” Let me offer some assistance.

Gestures, like our vocal inflection, are vital when we’re delivering a presentation. They add emphasis and help the audience understand what we believe is important. Think of your gestures as the visual bold, italic, and underlining of your speech. And there’s probably something in every sentence you say that needs a little emphasis. Adding a gesture of some kind will help make your points.

I have three guidelines for effective gestures. Give these a try as you practice your next presentation.

First, gestures need to be above-the-waist to count. No half-hearted flippy hands down by your legs, please, and no elbows-velcro’d-to-your-side gestures, either. Gestures need to be up where we can see them with air in the armpits.

Second, try one-handed gestures. Use two hands when you absolutely need them, but for the rest of the time, one hand is enough. I think gestures instantly look more natural and relaxed when you utilize one just one arm. I know what your next question is—and that leads me right into point #3.

Third, what do you do with the hand that’s left behind? Plant it somewhere! Rest those finger tips on the top of the conference table or the side of the lectern. Grasp the top of the chair or flipchart easel you’re standing next to. For many presentations, the leftover hand will be busy holding a hand-held mic or remote clicker. And, contrary to many other speaker coaches, I’m a big fan of one hand in the pocket. I think people, especially men, look instantly cool and calm with one hand tucked away. Now, it can’t live in that pocket for the entire presentation, but it stay there for a short while.

When one hand is grounded somewhere touching something, it can instantly relax you. You don’t feel like you’re floating out in space. Then, when you find your groove a few minutes in to the speech, you can let go and have that hand available for gesturing going forward.

So, for all you Ricky Bobbys out there, don’t fret. Try these tricks and you can “shake-and-bake” with the best of them, too!

© Jill Bremer 2017

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