How many times have you sat in a speech or a day long training session and asked yourself the question; “Is he going to finish on time?” Or you ask yourself, “If the speaker is only on page 2 of the handout, will he make it to page 10?”
Every speaker at the start of their assignment thinks they have plenty of time to say and do everything. They feel they can make their points and still be able to add other facts and figures. It is only when they are past the half-way mark in their time allotment and they look at what they have left to say and the panic begins to set in. Or they are the last speaker of the day and their speech is 45 minutes long but it is 10 minutes to Happy Hour. As they say, we have all been there and done that. Here are some lessons that I have learned to help you keep your sanity and be in good graces with your audience.
First rule is to always remember that your audience would rather have you finish 10 minutes early than to keep them 1 minute late. Your opening and conclusion should be memorized but the body is where you can help adjust your time. For example, if you are the last speaker before lunch, you may have to cut your speech to finish on time. Assign the main points of your speech on a sliding scale of importance. When you know that you are going to run out of time, start to mentally remove the less important parts of your speech.
Concerning handouts, you either have to be extremely strict with your time or use a little devious trick. If you have 5 point handout, you may want to tell your audience that you are only going to speak on the 3 most important points. If you do finish all 5 points, you give the impression to your audience that you delivered more than you promise. This is always a good thing.
You may want to have a moderator to control the flow of the questions and answers portion of your program. Make them the bad guy with regardless to shutting off the questions.
Remember your audience’s time is more important than yours. You may not be the cause running out of time but you can be the hero to fixing it
One of the roles in a Toastmaster meeting is the Ah-Counter. The Ah-Counter’s job is to note how many times a word or sound is used as a verbal crutch during a meeting. These words maybe inappropriate interjections, such as; you know, and, but, like and so. In addition the speakers may use sounds, such as; ah, um or Ur. The Ah-Counter will record words that are repeat fillers, such as; “I, I” or “You know, you know”. If you as a speaker listen carefully, you will be amazed how times people in everyday life, use these crutches. If you listen to speakers, both inexperience as well as some experienced ones, you will hear how many times these mistakes are made. To be judged as an exceptional speaker, your use of these crutch words or sounds must be kept to a bare minimum.
In order to minimize your use of these words or sounds it would be helpful if you adopt several ideas.
First, increasing your listening skills is an important habit to acquire. If you listen more carefully to other people use these filler words or sounds, you will become more self-conscious as to your own use. The better you listen, the better you can curtail your use.
Secondly, this leads us to the next action. As you begin to notice your pattern of words and sounds, you will have to mentally begin to shift gears when you start to say these crutch words or sounds. At first it will be somewhat uncomfortable to stop talking and then mentally insert a pause before you begin speaking again. The good news is that even though you may think this is noticeable to others listening, in reality it is not noticed. Also this phenomenon is short lived. As you gain experience and expertise you will notice that that you do not use crutch words or sounds in any way.
The only problem is that you will begin to go crazy when you listen to other speakers use filler words. But as they say; “Better them than you!”
When a speaker asks a question of their audience, it is very interesting to watch the facial expressions of the audience for the first few seconds. Many speakers do not tell the audience what expectations they have with regards to answering the question. You have some audience members looking around to determine if anyone is going to answer the question. There are others who look fearful because they hope the speaker is not going to call on them to answer that question. You have some who have no clue as to what you are asking. If you are going to ask your audience a question, you should tell them what you expect. What if you do not want them to answer the question? Unless you tell the audience that your question is a rhetorical question in some fashion or another, the minds of your audience will automatically begin to decide how they will answer the question or even if they will answer it. In the process they may miss what you are trying to accomplish with your question.
On the other hand, you may want to have the audience become engaged by answering your questions. The problem is that most people don’t want to look foolish. People hate looking stupid. Also, they don’t want necessarily to be the first to answer the question. To help the process along, you may want to employ an old theater trick. Before you go on stage, you look for several audience members willing to answer a question. First, you ask their permission to call on them. Second, you give them the question beforehand which allows them time to think of an answer. By doing this, when you are on stage you now have people willing and able to answer the question calmly and confidently. If you give the person who answered the question a little gift, you begin to add excitement to your audience. People like getting gifts, even if it is only a pen. Of course, if you have written a book that is even better. As a result, other people in your audience will want to become part of action.
Of course, you may find now that everyone wants to answer your questions but that is another blog entry at a later date!
Many speakers encounter two key problems in adding humor to their speeches or presentations.
The first problem is how much humor should you add? It is actually for the speaker to decide, since the speaker adds the content. My question is, “How serious is your speech?” The more serious your content, the less humor you can use. Of course, to avoid having your audience experiencing an emotional breakdown it is imperative that you do interject some humor into your talk. This acts as a safety release for your audience. If the content is all fluff, everyone will enjoy a very funny speech. If your speech is very serious, the humor may get in the way of the message.
The second problem can be much more problematic. How mature do you want the humor to be? Or to put it another way, how dirty are your jokes? Many comedians have had trouble going from the nightclub circuit to daytime corporate programs. At the beginning a person starts working in a comedy club telling jokes and it is far easier to use raunchy jokes or swear words as part of the punchlines. These always are the easiest ways to get laughs. When the comedian moves to larger venues where they cannot use this type of humor, they find it harder to stay funny. They have to work harder to find the right material to use. Also every speaker has a natural cadence in their speaking. When a comedian is first starting they develop a certain rhythm or cadence based on the words they use. If you cannot use these words, it then changes the cadence. This as a result may not make the jokes funny.
The best course of action is to use clean comedy first. This allows you to speak in front of any type of audience and still leave them laughing.