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Effective Public Speaking - Audience Contact

Layne McDonald. Ph.D.

Good executives never put off until tomorrow what they can get someone else to do today. — John C. Maxwell

Although speaking in public is a monologue of sorts, this monologue is addressed to a ready, able, and receptive audience who wants to learn from you as much as you want to learn from them.

Speaking in public would be more effective if it is genuinely listened to. The following are practical tips to keep that necessary contact with the audience.

Greet them

Minutes before your speaking engagement, you could walk around the venue and familiarize yourself with the people listening to you. As the people and the attendees arrive, could you give them a warm greeting? It is much easier to deliver a speech to a group of people you consider friends than to a bunch of anonymous faces. 

Be positive

Honestly, people expect and want you to succeed. Audiences want to be as informed, stimulated, and entertaining as possible. If you fail, they cringe at you. Succeed, and your audience benefits just as well from your excellent speaking performance.

There is nothing to be sorry about

Suppose you mention to the audience that you are nervous or express your apologies for any problems you think may exist about your speech or your speech delivery. In that case, you may be setting them up to focus on that thing you are apologizing for. You do not have to mention this to them; chances are they have not noticed this until you brought it up. Relax and be silent. Your audience will relax with you.

Establish eye contact

Connect with your audience and appear natural. Or better yet, be as honest as you can be without overdoing it. You should be able to get the audience to nod their heads as an acknowledgment of what you are trying to convey. Do not breeze through your speech. Pause for a while, or a moment, especially at those points you want to emphasize. This is also an excellent time to establish eye contact with your attendees and catch that much-needed breath. 

Do not debate

If an audience expresses disagreement with any part of your message during the question-and-answer portion of your speaking engagement, you need not aggressively prove your point to them. A debate is not just a futile means to get your point across but could as satisfactorily never resolve. Get that attendee to talk with you after your speaking engagement, never during.

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