Some speakers intuitively sense an audience’s feelings, thoughts, and responses. Those perceptions help them create a more personal conversation with the audience.
For example, those perceptions enable them to voice thoughts and feelings audience members are not yet expressing. The speaker can respond with affirmation, clarification, insight, or information.
Drawing audience members’ thoughts, concerns, questions out before they are spoken can help generate a group discussion. The entire speaking engagement is more productive.
How does one develop this intuitive capacity? The good news is that we already have it! Rather than work to increase it, it can be easier to remove what gets in the way – distractions.
The biggest distraction is our worrying. Worrying about what to say or do, worrying about pacing, worrying about whether the projector will work properly, or if the video is going to play, or if they’ll like the slides, or if they’ll buy our story … All of this worrying literally blinds us to the facial expressions and body language that our audience is giving us.
Being well-prepared enables us to relax and connect with audience members more deeply, more intuitively, without losing control of our message.
What is being ‘well-prepared”? It’s not reading over your presentation the night, or even the week before. Well-prepared is thinking through, finding, creating:
- a simple, concise premise that can be expressed in 2-3 sentences using layman’s terms
- a premise that you believe in and care about
- the knowledge to support it
- knowing who your audience is, what they care about, and why your message would matter to them.
- the plan and ability to communicate about this in a logical, engaging and ‘sticky’ way
- the knowledge to answer a range of questions that may arise
- practice delivering the message out loud and on your feet until it feels natural
- practice and experience using message, breathe, and attention to turn anxiety into enthusiasm
- the belief that you are the right person to deliver this message
- commitment to becoming the audience’s ‘specialist’ on this topic
The task is a little like learning to ride a bike. There are lots of moving parts to manage. Intuitive presenting, connected presenting means getting the bike-riding down so you can focus on the road ahead. It means getting the presentation itself down so you can focus on the audience.
Commit to being well prepared and you may find that you free yourself to be able to intuitively tune-in to your audience. Whoah! Keep your balance … and use that insight and perception to turn a speaking engagement from a dry item on your to-do list into an engaging, even evolutionary experience.