Know Thy Audience


“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.” ~ Dale Carnegie

I actually believe there are two kinds of presentations… the I want to crawl under the table and take a nap kind and the sit on the edge of your seat, head bobbin’  “YES!!!”  kind.   Last week I had the opportunity to sit through several presentations that contained both types of speeches when I attended a required continuing education conference in my industry.  I always try to learn something at these conferences and this time was no different…except what I learned had nothing to do with the what part of the content in the various presentations…, it had to do with the how it was delivered to us (the audience).

Paul Revere knew what he was doing… he got everyone’s attention because he had great visual effects (he sat on top of a horse for goodness sake), he was energized (or panicked may be more of a proper word), and he was succinct in his delivery of his speech and he kept his overall message consistent (the British are coming…the British are coming…short, repetitive and easy to grasp).

I came away with five very simple thoughts to keep in mind when preparing and delivering a speech or presentation.  Please note that I have not had any formal training since my freshman year in college a few years ago (okay…so it was the late 1970’s), so a Dale Carnegie I am not:

  1. Do not start out a day of presentations with a speaker who has a PowerPoint presentation that consists of seventy four (74) slides of material…I don’t care how popular you think your subject is…
  2. Change up your presentation with a little humor (self-deprecating jokes generally work well…). Cartoons are great as long as the picture and type is clear and the humor can be simply grasped by the majority of the audience.  People really do like to laugh and smile
  3. Talk to your audience as if you are in a conversation versus delivering a speech.  Engage your audience through eye contact,  ask for a raise of hands, throw out a question or two to create participation if the group is not too large.  Formality is boring
  4. Don’t be obnoxiously loud and overbearing to get your viewpoint across.  I see this sometimes when lawyers are presenting and it feels like they are trying to argue their case when there is no case being argued.  Being loud doesn’t necessarily mean you are right
  5. Keep your energy high… move around a bit if possible.  If you are planning a seminar event,  put your highest energy speaker on right after lunch to counteract the post-meal sedation effects.  As energy flows out from the speaker,  it is absorbed in by the audience…

Yep,  I do learn something from every conference or seminar I go to…

What are some tips you have to create an engaged audience who will remember your message long after they walk away?

2 thoughts on “Know Thy Audience

  1. One of our doctors was the moderator of a panel at a women’s conference addressing the issue of opioid misuse. Interesting topic, yet has been hammered in our industry over the past year. Dr. M brought his lab coat, hung it n the back of the chair next to where he was standing and introduced it as the guest pain management physician, Dr. Eastwood! The audience laughed and everyone got it. He would intermittently throughout the discussion invite Dr. Eastwood to interject his opinion. It was very effective and kept everyone engaged.

    Lisa Ulrich

    1. Lisa,

      That is an awesome example of keeping the audience engaged! I will have to remember that technique in the future. Thanks for reading my post and taking the time to share your example!


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