Articles tagged: audience interaction

If you’ve ever been in the audience when a talented speaker has given a presentation, you know what a pleasure it can be. A skilled speaker can keep an audience’s attention for long periods of time. They can educate, inform, and motivate without making people feel as if they are at the receiving end of a lecture.

There are many techniques speakers learn to accomplish this. Sometimes, however, a presentation is made stronger by what you do not say. By avoiding these toxic phrases, you can be more effective in your presentations.

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In previous articles in this series, we learned how to plan and how to lead group discussions. In this article, we dig deeper into effectively managing different personalities that you will encounter as a discussion leader.

In an ideal world, everyone in your discussion group would actively participate, support the opinions of others, be respectful, and be a positive influence in all ways and at all times. The discussion would proceed swiftly and successfully towards achieving the objectives. Sadly, I have yet to lead a discussion group in such an ideal world.

In the real world, discussions can go awry in a thousand different ways. Often, the largest obstacles you will face come in the form of participants who exhibit traits of challenging personas. They may be doing so accidentally or they may be doing so deliberately; either way, you are responsible for managing these behaviors.

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Let’s start with three truths about feedback:

  1. Most of the feedback you receive as a speaker is not very useful.
  2. Useful feedback is hard to find and uncomfortable to receive.
  3. To reach your potential as a speaker, you require substantial feedback.

These truths present a few conundrums:

  • If most feedback is useless, how and where do you find useful feedback?
  • If receiving feedback is uncomfortable, why would you want to seek it? How do you get in the right frame of mind to accept it?

In this article, we define useful feedback, describe how and where to collect it, and discuss how to adopt a mindset which embraces honest feedback.

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The first article in this series explained how to plan a group discussion.

In this article, we describe best practices when leading a group discussion.

There’s much more involved than simply getting people in a room, waving a magic wand, and declaring “Discuss now!” Your role as a discussion leader is complex and requires great mental dexterity and tact. How can you keep the discussion steadily flowing in a productive way at the right pace towards achieving your objectives?

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Discussion groups come in numerous forms, including:

  • committee discussions
  • internal corporate meetings
  • customer strategy sessions
  • industry or academic conference panels
  • brainstorming sessions
  • classroom discussions
  • book clubs

Discussion groups also range widely in terms of:

  • group size — 5, 50, or 500?
  • length — 20 minutes, 1 day, or several weeks?
  • setting — living room, classroom, boardroom, conference room, political chambers
  • consequences — discussion between friends versus international policy repercussions

Despite this diversity, all successful group discussions share one trait: a competent discussion leader. Leading a discussion is an essential skill for a well-rounded speaker.

In this article, we focus on how to plan a great group discussion.

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Your eye contact impacts your ability to connect with your audience and, by extension, your effectiveness as a speaker. In this article, we offer simple strategies for producing more eye contact and better eye contact.

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When I was in high school, every teacher used an overhead projector regularly. Many years later, I can’t recall the last time I saw one used as meeting rooms are increasing equipped with digital projectors to display PowerPoint and Keynote slides. This is a clear technology upgrade, and I don’t miss the overhead projector at all.

Similarly, the flip chart is another device my teachers used often; sadly, it also gathers dust often in dark, neglected corners of meeting rooms. But flip charts are more than just relics; they remain one of the most versatile tools readily available to speakers.

In this article, we list the core benefits of using flip charts, and give several tips that will help you use this wonderful tool effectively.

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Making eye contact with an audience is one of the most terrifying things about presenting a speech in public. Because it’s scary and difficult, several myths about eye contact exist to help us cope with our fears. These myths swirl around meeting rooms, conference halls, Toastmasters clubs, and classrooms, and if you listen closely, you might hear presenters whispering them to one another.

Unfortunately, none of these myths help a presenter’s delivery.

In this article, you will learn why these myths don’t work, and discover how you can move toward effective eye contact instead.

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Full-day training courses offer many challenges for speakers, including:

  • massive preparation requirements;
  • physical and mental fatigue (for both the speaker and audience); and
  • maintaining interest requires dynamic delivery and varied presentation techniques.

If you can overcome these challenges, you can provide significant value for your audience.

This past week, I was fortunate to attend a series of full-day training courses (Usability Week 2012 in San Francisco, offered by the Nielsen Norman Group). While my focus was building my usability knowledge, it was also a great opportunity to learn from people who speak regularly around the world. One of these speakers was Marieke McCloskey, who taught my first session of the week.

This article offers 28 tips for designing and presenting training courses inspired by Marieke’s strengths and areas for improvement.

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This article is part of the 12 Days of Ask Six Minutes.
This event is over now, but you can send your questions anytime.

Speaking outdoors is one of the most difficult challenges faced by a public speaker.

Do you know how to overcome the obstacles in this difficult scenario?

An anonymous Six Minutes reader asks:

Every speech I’ve heard given outdoors has been pretty much a disaster. Have I just been unlucky, or is this an impossible venue? Is there any way to succeed?

In this article, we’ll examine the unique challenges of speaking outdoors, and give several tips for effectively getting your message across.

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Most speakers approach their presentation as if they were the star actors in a theater play. They decide on the content, rehearse, and then deliver their impeccably prepared speech.

Giving a presentation however is different from playing Hamlet.  When watching a play, or a dance show, the audience wants to be entertained and emotionally engaged.  When attending a presentation, the audience expects to hear a relevant message and bring home something of value.  They will evaluate the speaker based on whether he or she can convey information that they can understand, digest, remember, and utilize.

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