We now have the pleasure of seeing both David Cameron and Nick Clegg presenting at Prime Ministers question time. Do they connect with their audience? Are they engaging? Do they hold attention when they are speaking and what’s the secret?
For a good presentation to connect, speakers need to understand the audience’s need to respond emotionally and physically using:
* Space: moving towards an audience at the time most appropriate to the content in that part of the presentation
* Body language: gestures that reach out to a crowd, and open up the speaker to listeners. Avoid gestures that inadvertently set up a barrier eg crossing arms in defensiveness
* Non-verbal cues: ‘reading’ audience as engaged/disengaged, open/closed, allied/opposed, committed/uncommitted.
Contact: that magic moment when it’s as if the speaker and listener are the only people in the room; involves tapping into emotions:
* Make a personal connection at the beginning: not with a joke or rhetorical question, but an anecdote personal to the speaker, something they are passionate about, and that embodies in miniature the presentation’s overall theme.
* Select ‘proxies’ in the audience: You can’t have a personal encounter with the entire audience, so choose up to three friendly, neutral looking people who can serve as representatives of the audience
* Suit action to word, and word to action: carefully plan your movements to be in harmony with the verbal messages
* Convey the presentation in a conversational tone: makes it sound more natural, with proper placement of pauses and emphasis on key words
* Visualise success: mentally walk your emotions through the talk; your body will respond to the pictures you hold in your mind
* Make full eye contact: at least at the end of every long sentence, paragraph or long thought, with one individual in the audience
* Forget yourself and focus on the audience: allow the audience itself to become active, usually at the end of a presentation; but even during a presentation offer the audience a chance to move, perform a task, or simply hold an object
* Move away from questioners: after a question has been asked - it broadens the question and involves the audience in the answer
* And of course, keep nervous energy under control - think of the feeling as adrenaline, a natural high focused on delivering a top quality performance. A bit like theatre really.
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