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Monday, July 14, 2008


Grab Your Audience

Want to give a talk that is captivating and notable? Here are some tips:

Humour can enliven your talk, but avoid telling generic "funny stories". Instead, find and build more humour within the context of your own stories.
Jokes may get a laugh, but a humorous personal story pertinent to your talk will freshen up your anecdote and will be memorable for your audience.
For instance, come up with an experience that was embarrassing for you - if the point you are making can be tied into an awkward moment which caught you off guard and is humorous in the retelling.
Study your material, find a description that is relevant to a segment of your speech, insert it as a humorous example in your talk, and cap it with a punch line - this is the essence of comedy.
It is also fun to introduce an entertaining "character" to your story.
Then, as you present the anecdote, learn to affect the role of that character on stage by shifting your position, changing your head movement or facial expression. You will be amazed at how the audience can "see" the story and appreciate it more.
It takes practice: Rehearse in front of a mirror, try new material out on friends, and discard it when the story falls flat.

Effective role-playing and character portrayal depend heavily on the use of body language.
On the platform, it is an essential part of your message and can help you enhance the words you use to create pictures in the minds of your audience.
First, avoid repetitive use of the same movements or gestures. It is a difficult exercise, but it is important to practise a veriety of movements and to control the same repeated gestures with your hands.
Try practising a speech by clasping your hands behind your back to avoid meaningless, repetitive arm and hand gestures. It will be tough at first to concentrate on your talk without using your hands, but it will help stop superficial flailing and gesturing. Remember, if you lose track of your gestures, it does not mean your audience will.
The same applies to facial expressions and movement on the platform. To emphasise a shift in your speech content, move to the left or right of the lectern. If you have a strong point to make, use that moment to take a step or two forward to highlight that issue.
Movement rehearsal is essential to ensure your gestures are relevant and not superficial or redundant.

Your voice and the inflections of your speech are vital to your talk too.
The way you pronounce words can weaken your presentation. An example is saying "axchually" in place of "actually", or "perfekly" in place of "perfectly".
Use short, simple declarative sentences and cut out useless words. You can be more articulate if you make a special effort to pronounce the final sound in a word and use its energy to carry over to the following word. Pay special attention to the final "t" and "ng".

Pausing at exactly the right moment in your speech is often more effective than anything you do with your voice or body movements.
A symphony orchestra becomes a lot more "listenable" because of the variety of sound - sometimes soft, sometimes loud, sometimes still.
Learn to pause more often. As you know your material very well, you may have a tendency to talk too fast. Your audience may be hearing your information for the first time, so it is important to slow down and give them the opportunity to catch every word.
The faster you speak, the more you have to open up your material with pauses. If you do not, you limit your audience's ability to absorb your stories and ideas.
Using pauses and silence to punctuate your material will draw in your audience. After making a point or delivering a punch line, accentuate it by standing still and shifting only your eyes. The impact will be much greater.
Another key element to the delivery of a speech is the use of your energy levels. Studies have proven that the first and last 30 seconds of a presentation make the most impact on the audience.
Do no be afraid to grab your audience. But develop pacing and variety in your delivery energy. If you come on with a gangbusters opening and then drop to a steady low-energy level, your presentation will seem flat.
If you stay high energy for the entire programme, you may risk losing your believability. Adopt variety and pacing in your delivery, and your audience will remain alert.

The Straits Times, CATS Recruit - Mon, June 25, 2007
by Patricia Fripp,]

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