Adapting to the Audience
Uploaded by zzandman24 on Oct 30, 2011
This paper discusses ways in which a speaker can give a successful presentation, and what to do in the case of an audience that reacts unexpectedly.
Any successful speaker, presenter or actor must be able to engage his audience within a few moments of opening his talk or performance. People are busy, and their attention is easily distracted if they don’t immediately perceive that the message being delivered is of interest to them.
This paper explores ways of judging the situation and engaging the audience.
I believe the realm of the theater is probably outside the scope of this paper, since theatergoers are prepared to “give up” several hours of their time to enjoy a play. Then too, the actor is portraying a character, and if the play is familiar, the audience already knows who that character is. The actor needn’t try to explain the situation, but he does have the difficult job of bringing it to life in a believable way.
Let’s instead consider how the average person can adapt to a situation in which he has an audience. This might be anything from delivering a speech at a company awards banquet, to conducting a training session, to presenting a formal report at a stockholders’ meeting.
Of course, we will presuppose that the speaker already has his material and has rehearsed it. If it’s a report, he is familiar with facts and figures so that he can discuss them from memory if need be. If she’s conducting a training class, she knows her topic well enough to give information to her students if something were to happen to her material. If she’s giving a speech, she has enough of it memorized so that she can deliver it without referring too often to her notes—a habit that is annoying, leads to the stilted delivery we’ve all heard, and robs the occasion of spontaneity. In other words, a speaker is always, always prepared.
Although few of us are ever simply thrown into a situation where we have to make an impromptu speech, many people, even with adequate preparation time, still fail to deliver an interesting, moving, funny, informative, or appropriate talk. Often—and fatally—they open with some sort of joke, which is often in poor taste and may fall flat. A bad start will make the speech seem interminable to the speaker,...