Know the room. Be familiar with the place in which you will speak. Arrive early, walk around the speaking area and practice using the microphone and any visual aids.
Your purpose in speaking to a group is to inform and persuade the audience. Your motivation is to get satisfaction from expressing your ideas and getting recognition or applause from the audience.
In order to achieve your purpose, as well as to get the expression and applause you desire, you must satisfy the audience with something in which they are interested. Thus, it is important to know what your audience is interested in, what their expectations are, and even what mood they are in.
Know the audience and the organization.. Greet some of the audience as they arrive. It's easier to speak to a group of friends than to a group of strangers. Be prepared to have dinner, chat, and be at ease.
You can find out about the audience through research before you speak, through interaction at the beginning of your talk, and by making adjustments during the speech.
Before you speak
Before you speak--and even before you prepare your speech--you should know what sort of audience you will have. What is the nature of the group? What do they expect to hear from you? Do they have any special interests or prejudices of which you should be aware?
If you find out about some key people in the audience, you can use them in your opening comments to gain rapport with the audience. Everyone likes a humorous comment about the boss--at your expense, not at his or hers.
Here are guidelines to make brevity a key foundation in your next speech.
1. Keep stories under 2 minutes
First, keep your stories under two minutes in length. In preparing a story, continue to ask the question, "How can I say this in less time and in fewer words?" Script out your story and then seek to condense it.
Make sure also that you have a sense of direction in the story. Each part of the story should move toward the conclusion in the mind of the listener. The listener should always feel you are going somewhere in developing your story.
2. Less is better
Second, when possible, follow the proverb, "Less is better than more." Never use three words when you can say it in two. Leave out clichés, filler words, and hackneyed words, such as "You know," "OK," and "All right." Leave out phrases such as "Let me be honest," or blunt, or frank. Avoid "In other words…" or "To say it another way…"
Speak in short sentences, short phrases, and short words. Word choice should be instantly clear to an audience. Make it a goal to make every word have impact in your speech.
3. Practice to find length
Third, know the length of your speech by practicing it. Never be surprised by the length of your speech. Never say to an audience, "I'm running out of time, so I must hurry along." You should know because of your preparation and practice of the speech.
To go one step further, if you know the time limit on your speech is 20 minutes, stop a minute short; don't go overtime. Audiences will appreciate your respect of their time and will think more highly of you as a speaker because of that. You should never be surprised by how long it takes you to deliver a speech.
4. Divide speech into segments
Fourth, learn to divide parts of your speech into time segments. Let's use a 20-minute speech as an example. The introduction should be no longer than 21/2 minutes. You can get the attention and preview your message easily in that length of time. Avoid opening with generalizations about the weather or the audience. Let the audience know up front that every word you speak counts.
Spend the bulk of your time in the body of the speech. This is where you make your points and give support or evidence for each point. The final two minutes should be your summary and move to action statement. Some speakers have a hard time concluding. When you say you are going to conclude, do so. As one wise person stated, "Don't dawdle at the finish line of the speech."
Have few points
One way to keep your speech brief is to have few points in the body of your speech—no more than three. With a maximum of three points, you will have the self-discipline to condense rather than amplify. In organizing your material, accept the fact you will always have more material than you can cover and that you will only include material that relates to one of the two or three points you plan to make. Trying to cover four to six points will almost invariably make you go overtime in your speech.
A key to success in speaking is not just having something worthwhile to say, but also saying it briefly. We need to follow the speaking axiom, "Have a powerful, captivating opening and a strong, memorable close, and put the two of them as close together as possible."
Question and Answer Session after the Presentation
Allowing the audience to ask questions after your presentation is an excellent way to reinforce your message and continue to sell your ideas. In addition, because listeners can ask for clarification, audience members are less likely to leave your presentation or speech with misconceptions about the concepts you delivered. Because of these benefits, the question and answer period is actually another presentation and vital to most speaking situations. It is like a presentation after the presentation.
This lesson will answer those questions. There is a mini-quiz at the end of this lesson. Here are some suggestions to more effectively handle the question and answer period.
Tell your intentions
Create the right mental set among your listeners by telling them early in the presentation that you will have a question and answer period at the end of your speech. If you have an introducer, tell that person to mention your willingness to answer questions at the end of the presentation. People are more likely to ask questions if you tell them at the beginning that they will have this opportunity.
Prime the pump
Show that you want queries. Say, “Who has the first question?” Look expectant after you ask the question. If no question is asked, “prime the pump” by asking a question. Say, “A question I’m often asked is….” Ask the question and then answer it. If there are then no questions, you can finish with “Are there any other questions?” Some of the enthusiasm for your presentation is lost if you have no questions from the audience. Usually, “priming the pump” will motivate audience members to ask questions.
Look at the person asking the question, and repeat it, especially if there is a large audience or if you need a moment to think. By repeating the question you also insure you understood what the person asked. However, do not continue looking at the person once you start to answer the question.
Remember that you are still in a public speaking situation and that the whole audience should hear your answer—not just the person who asked the question. In addition, continue to stand where you are equally distant from all members of your audience. Avoid the temptation to move directly to the person who asked the question. Visually this will make the rest of the audience feel left out.
As you end your answer, look back at the person and his/her facial expression will tell if you answered the question satisfactorily.
Keep your answer concise and to the point. Don’t give another speech. The audience will be bored if you take too long to answer a question. In addition, possibly the only person interested in the answer is the one who asked the question! If you can answer with a “yes” or “no,” then do so. This keeps the tempo moving and will help keep the audience’s attention.
One of the toughest challenges is the loaded question. Don’t answer a loaded question; defuse it before you answer. Before answering a question such as, “What are you doing with all the money you are making from increased prices?” defuse it by saying, “I understand your frustration with the recent rate increase. I believe what you are asking is, ‘Why such a sudden increase in rates?’” Then answer that question.
You only get into arguments when you allow yourself to answer the loaded question. If the person is not satisfied with the changing of the question’s wording, tell him or her that you will be glad to talk about it following the question and answer period and move quickly to the next question.
Comment instead of question
Sometimes you will have a listener raise his or her hand and instead of asking a question will make an extended comment—or a speech. This person has no question.
A way to handle this is to watch the person’s speaking rate, and when he or she takes a moment for a breath interrupt with “Thanks for your comment….Next question?” Look to the other side of the room and the long-winded speaker is not sure whether you interrupted him or whether you really thought he or she was finished. Do not allow the person to continue with the “speech” because it will deprive other members of the audience of the opportunity to ask questions.
Don’t praise questions
Don’t evaluate questions. Avoid saying “That was a great question,” or “Good question.” If the next person asks a question and you give no positive adjective, then the person may think you did not approve of the question and that could stifle others from asking questions. If you want to affirm a specific question, simply say, “Thanks for asking that question.” Make everyone feel equally good about asking questions.
Give conclusion after the question and answer
Consider having your conclusion after the question and answer period. This technique allows you to control the end of your time in front of the audience.
Instead of the last question, the audience receives your prepared and planned conclusion. Say, “Before I make some concluding remarks, who has a question to ask?” Then when you take the amount of time you want for the question and answer period, go back to your conclusion.
Thus you can end in a positive and upbeat way rather than trailing off with “So if there are no further questions, I guess that’s it….”
Always maintain control of the speaking situation. When you open your presentation for audience participation, there are risks of losing control.
Anticipate the unexpected. Plan ahead as much as possible. Look at your content and think about likely questions the audience will ask. Prepare your own questions to ask. Don’t be afraid to say, “I don’t know,” and move on to the next question (You might add that you will be glad to get back to them with an answer at a later time).
Be up front with a questioner if you think the question is not relevant and in a kind way say so. Your response might be, “Actually, that question doesn’t the fit the context of our discussion.” Work hard not to lose your temper with someone who is trying to make you look bad by the question asked.