In my last post, we talked about how to write your speech. In today’s public speaking tip we are discussing
Public speaking is a totally live event.
And that means that anything can happen and just about anything could happen in the middle of your presentation. So, in order to change your fear of the unexpected into control, you will have to think ahead to what you will do if things come up and how you will get the crowd back on track with your outline. Otherwise, you will never get them to the conclusion you want them to reach.
Depending on how you conduct your presentation and the type of gathering, questions or objections from the audience could potentially take you off course. This is especially true if you really didn’t plan to have an open forum type of discussion.
My public speaking tip:
Practice your speech in front of someone that you know and trust and allow them to interrupt, question and heckle (yes, I said heckle) until you can handle everything that they throw at you with composure and control. Lawyers do this to prep their clients for courtroom questioning and politicians also undergo similar training.
If you set out to do your talk as a speech,
not a discussion and someone interrupts, the first thing to do is recognize the instigator to assure the crowd you have the situation under control. Your audience comes to your talk with the confidence that you’re in control of the room and it is important you maintain that control.
Now if the disrupting person is being difficult and clearly wants to screw up the meeting that is when the organizers of the meeting should know to step in and remove that person. But many times, the interruption could be a very logical and politely put question or need for clarification. A rule of thumb is if one person asks a question, that means that four or five in the crowd had that question in mind but did not have the courage to interrupt you. Sometimes the disruption may not even be audible. If might be just a hand in the air or a facial expression that is clearly communicating the need to interact with you.
Again, the more you can maintain composure and recognize the question and either answer it or divert it from your outline, the more confidence the crowd will have in you.
Many times, the question will either be easily answered from your materials.
Don’t be afraid to say, “That is an outstanding question which is right here on my outline. I will be answering that in a moment”. When you do that, it gets a chuckle from the questioner and the crowd and you can continue your path to finishing your talk just making sure you highlight the area of the outline that came up in the question.
Be prepared also for either a legitimate question that you do not have a ready answer for or for questions that don’t make any sense to what you’re talking about at all. Seriously, it happens all the time. LOL
For both to simply recognize that the questions were good (even if they aren’t) and state that you will do some research and get back to them later with that background information. That will usually quiet the interrupter down and let you get on with your program.
Questions are not the only things that can go wrong while you are onstage.
- Maybe your laptop doesn’t fire up.
- AV doesn’t work and the tech guys can’t fix it.
- A person could fall out of his or her chair.
- It never fails that someone’s phone rings, like all the time.
The list of things that might happen goes on and on.
Again, as you did with questions that you didn’t expect, maintaining composure and control is the key.
The audience will actually key off of you as to whether to panic about the interruption or not.
“The success of your presentation will be judged not by the knowledge you send but by what the listener receives.” – Lilly Walters
If you keep your head and handle the disruption with a sense of calm, that will put the audience in that mood too. The effects of the disruption will minimize immediately and because you communicated that you were in charge at all times, the audience will respond to your leadership and come back to you to hear the rest of what you have to say.
You can achieve a feeling of control and calm by thinking through or better yet, practicing how you will handle the unexpected before you even step up to give your talk.
“90% of how well the talk will go is determined before the speaker steps on the platform.” – Somers White
Because you expect the unexpected, you can use strange things that happen to demonstrate your management of the time you have to speak to the crowd. If you do that, it will work to your advantage and the result will be an even better presentation that would have happened without the disruption.
By now, you have learned what to do when things don’t go quite as planned with this little public speaking tip.
Make sure you look for my next post tomorrow about where you should look when you’re speaking.
Keep the Shiny Side Up,