Communication works best in an active, not a passive environment. If you want to get your message across to your audience members, you have to connect with them.
Interaction is a continuous way to get feedback on how well your content is understood. It also gives listeners a chance to contribute their experience to the learning process.
How do you build interaction?
- Be prepared to be spontaneous. Have questions ready—begin with relatively easy, accessible ones. Ask questions that create disagreement and watch the audience come to life.
- Work to get everyone involved: even in large groups. I have an assortment of candy ready. I give a chocolate bar to the first person who answers a question. It’s amazing how responsive the rest of the group gets when there is chocolate at stake. (Yes, these are adults. )
- Break into small groups. Ask participants to consider issues with the person sitting next to them or small groups.
- Discuss as a larger group. Have the smaller groups present their findings to the whole group. Use those points to generate further discussion with the audience.
The way you move when speaking also affects you connection with the audience. If you spend the entire speach leaning on the lectern, with your arms folded, it will be difficult to connect with the listeners.
- Don’t rock or scurry back and forth, but don’t get locked into one position.
- Walk toward the audience.
- If you can’t walk toward the audience, lean in.
- Use eye contact.
- Energize and use gestures. The larger the audience and the room, the bigger your gestures have to be.
- Get your face involved.
- Use vocal variety.
It’s easy to compound our innate fear of public speaking by delivering a really bad presentation. There’s nothing worse than fighting the nervous butterflies in your stomach and seeing the glazed-eyes look of your audience as you slowly bore them to tears.
Neil Patel has posted 10 Tips for a Killer Presentation. My three favourites:
- Don’t abuse your visuals – Usually your visuals are posters, charts, or even a PowerPoint presentation. Whatever your visuals may be, keep them simple and don’t put too many words on them. The audience isn’t there to read your slides, they are there to listen to you present.
- Make them laugh – Although you want to educate your audience, you need to make them laugh as well. I learned this from Guy Kawasaki and if you ever hear any of his speeches you’ll understand why. In essence, it keeps the audience alert and they’ll learn more from you than someone who just educates.
- Talk to your audience, not at them – People hate it when they get talked at, so don’t do it. You need to interact with your audience and create a conversation. An easy way to do this is to ask them questions as well as letting them ask you questions.
I have one more tip that I’ve had to learn the hard way: Tell stories – People don’t want to sit through a dry recitation of facts, statistics, policy, etc. They want to hear how what you have to say plays out in real life. Learn to tell stories.
Toastmasters International has put together a list of ten tips that will help improve your public speaking skills.
- Know your material. Pick a topic you are interested in. Know more about it than you include in your speech.
- Use personal stories and conversational language – that way you won’t easily forget what to say.
- Practice. Practice. Practice! Rehearse out loud with all equipment you plan on using. Revise as necessary.
- Know the room. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
- Know the audience. Greet some of the audience members as they arrive. It’s easier to speak to a group of friends than to strangers.
- Relax. Ease tension by doing exercises. Transform nervous energy into enthusiasm.
- Visualize yourself giving your speech. Imagine yourself speaking, your voice loud, clear and confident. Visualize the audience clapping – it will boost your confidence.
- Realize that people want you to succeed. Audiences want you to be interesting, stimulating, informative and entertaining. They don’t want you to fail.
- Don’t apologize for any nervousness or problem – the audience probably never noticed it.
- Concentrate on the message – not the medium. Focus your attention away from your own anxieties and concentrate on your message and your audience.