Saturday, August 22, 2009

what's your speaker presence?

Lots of speakers can tell you right away what they want to say, or what their audience wants to hear. But before you plunge into preparing your points or how you'll handle the Q&A, take some time to consider your presence and impact. How you want to be seen, or the impact you want to have on the audience, should be the starting point--not an accident or afterthought--for your speaker preparations. Here are ways to consider your presence as a speaker before you start speaking:
  1. What's appropriate to the occasion? Considering the place, time of day, what's in the news, the reason for the gathering and other contextual information helps you avoid the inappropriate. For example, I've had to train groups of inner-city teens and parents in presentation skills--and while I dressed professionally, I didn't wear a suit, aiming for a more casual outfit that wouldn't intimidate or distance me from the audience.
  2. How will the audience see me, going into this? What will their assumptions be about me, based on the little bit of information they'll get before I speak? Will anything about me play into those assumptions--or refute them? Does that make a difference in what I'm going to say? Should it? Will it anyway?
  3. How do I want the audience to see me--when I begin and when I end? This gets to your goal for connecting with the audience. If you want to persuade them, surprise them, get them to hire you or make them laugh, you may need to consider factors ranging from your appearance and how you dress to how you move and gesture, in addition to your words.
  4. How do I want to be seen if I'm challenged? Even though there's nearly always an audience member who likes to question the speaker's premise or facts, many speakers avoid considering this. Yet the way you respond to a challenge will tell your audience a lot about you--and sometimes it's not what you want to put across. Do you want to come across as calm and in control? Ready to mix it up? Failing to prepare for this eventuality may mean your presence seems defensive and dismissive.
  5. How do I want to be seen if I'm complimented? Praise can undermine you just as easily as poison. If your first impulse is to dismiss a compliment, consider how that will make you look as the speaker. If you agree too much, you'll have a different image. Answering this question can help you plan a response that fits your goals.

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