Saturday, November 21, 2009

what do speakers assume?

Last month, I spent nearly as much time in the audience as I did up front as a speaker, and from that vantage point, I noticed lots of speakers making faulty assumptions about their audiences or their speeches. (For example, I saw lots of speakers assume they could hold the microphone anywhere and still be heard.) So I asked fans of The Eloquent Woman on Facebook what speaker assumptions they'd noticed, and whether those assumptions were right or wrong. Here's what they said:

  • Germaine Palangdao called out speakers for "Acronyms - they assume everyone knows acronyms."
  • Cynthia Baugh-Gunder Hill wrote, "Of the many audiences I have been in this past summer listening to speakers on various subjects related to education and special needs... I must agree with the acronyms and the audience not being able to hear clearly. In addition... speakers that use PowerPoint and the lights are dimmed to the point that you can't make any notes, even if they supply you with a copy of the slides."
  • Tiffany Lohwater added, "speakers who assume that their audience can/should read the 15+ text bullets on one slide in small font, before they click on to the next one!"
That's why I was glad to see this week that Marjorie Brody, writing on the Six Minutes blog, notes 8 faulty speakers assumptions and what you can do to fix them.  Her list includes:
1.Deep knowledge of a topic alone will enable me to present ideas on it.
2.My audience members are mind readers.
3.I can present information/concepts that took me 3 months to learn in a 20-minute presentation.
4.Everyone in my audience is equal.
5.I don’t need to practice out loud.
6.I’ll have plenty of time to get there.
7.If I get off the platform/stage, I will be closer to audience members.
8.If I speak at my normal speed, everyone will understand me.
What do you notice speakers assuming when you're in the audience? Can you think of assumptions you make when you're speaking--and what to do about them? Share your thoughts and questions in the comments. I just know we can add to these lists!

And check out my checklist for the whole speaker, designed to help you get at some of the most basic speaker assumptions--from your content to what you're wearing--before you speak.