Tuesday, September 22, 2009

when the audience isn't visible

With conference calls and webinars a part of every work day, figuring out how to speak when you can't see the audience is now a vital speaker's skill. This Computerworld article looks at several factors that you should consider when preparing yourself to speak without an audience in front of you:

  • Are you an extrovert or an introvert? Extroverts get their energy from being around people, so a webinar setting may make you feel like a fish out of water--uncomfortable and stressed out.
  • Can you use technology to succeed? The author suggests getting a pal to listen and send you instant messages to say "slow down!" or to encourage you, or use other means to send and receive questions and answers from the listeners.
  • Have you reorganized your presentation for this format? Speaking in short bursts, using vocal variety and adding some pow to your slides all may help hold the attention of the listener who's eating lunch, cruising the web or otherwise multitasking.

I'd also add these tips:

  • Stand up. Wear a headset and roam around if you like, but stand. Your diaphragm will thank you and you'll automatically sound more energized.
  • Think of your call or webinar as a radio story. On-air reporters know they can't rely on visuals. Vary your vocals so they offer some surprises -- pauses, variation in volume or tone, and more -- to hold interest and add emphasis that your hands might otherwise do. Focus on energetic delivery, even if you have to mark up a script to remind yourself. (Practice tip: Listen to some NPR stories before you do the webinar, to get a good example in your ears.)
  • Talk visually. People can't see what you're describing, so describe it, and choose words that create vivid mental pictures. This may mean a more colorful vocabulary than you usually use, but it should pay off in adding emphasis and detail to hold your audience's attention.

Related posts: Vocalizing tips from National Public Radio

Factor in your speaker personality type