When you’re speaking to a group of enthusiasts, it’s easy to assume that your audience already knows certain things. That’s a mistake.
A great presentation
Last weekend, I went to a presentation about floral design. This is a skill I don’t think too much about…that is until I bring a bouquet home from the supermarket, remove the wrapper and stuff the flowers into a vase. Then I wish I knew more about floral design. So I went hoping to pick up some tips on how to do a better job.
The sold-out event was filled with women who wanted to learn, and the presenter did not disappoint! She’d come prepared with lots of supplies and many creative ideas. Overall, I really enjoyed the presentation and learned a lot! But she missed three opportunities to improve the presentation and to enhance the audience’s experience.
Tip #1: Greet the audience and identify yourself
Even after you’ve been introduced, it’s good practice to greet the audience and let them know who you are. From a speaker’s perspective it might seem redundant, but the audience will appreciate both the greeting and the reminder:
“Good morning, ladies! Are you ready to learn how to make some beautiful flower arrangements? My name is Mary Jones, and today we’re going to…”
Tip #2: Don’t assume your audience shares your knowledge
Floral foam is that green stuff that floral designers use to anchor their arrangements. Partway through an early demonstration, I asked if you’re supposed to poke holes in it before you put the flowers in. It’s a really basic question, and one she answered readily and politely (the answer is “no,” by the way). I thought I had to have been the stupidest person in the room to ask such a thing, but it was as if I’d opened the floodgates. After my initial salvo, many other questions were asked that reflected wildly varying levels of knowledge, from moderately experienced to rank amateur.
You should never assume that your audience knows as much as you do about your subject. It’s a simple matter to refer to basic information in such a way as to educate the inexperienced people while reinforcing the knowledge of the educated ones:
“I’m using floral foam as the base of this arrangement. This stuff is great; you just gently push the stems in. You don’t need to poke holes in it first!”
With such a quick reference, you’re not insulting anybody’s intelligence because it sounds like a natural part of your speech.
Tip #3: Continue the conversation
It wasn’t until after the presentation that I saw the single flyer that the speaker had brought with her. She might have meant to refer to it, but she hadn’t and it was lying forgotten on a table. She also hadn’t brought any business cards with her, making it very difficult for people to get in touch.
Public speaking can be a give-and-take experience that benefits both the speaker and the audience. This is facilitated if you give your audience multiple ways to contact you. Distribute business cards, give them a handout that has your top ten tips for whatever and that includes all of your contact information, tell them your URL, invite them to connect with you on LinkedIn, etc., etc., etc.
Don’t imagine that you’re opening the door for a bunch of people who’ll talk your ear off. I can tell you from experience that the vast majority of people to whom you give your contact information will never follow up with you. But you might be able to help those who do and, maybe, they can help you in return.
It’s the little things
Lecturing and giving workshops about things you’re passionate about can be a very rewarding experience for you and your audience. Remember these tips during your next presentation and help your audience to be swept up in your enthusiasm!