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How to Win Over an Audience

By: Scott McBride - Updated: 16 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
Audience Speaking Public Speaking Team

The way an idea is presented can make it or break it. If a manager has a lively style and expressive body language, they can inspire and persuade an audience, outline their key ideas, explain how their proposals will be achieved and handle any interruptions with confidence.

Public speaking can be scary, especially if the audience lose interest quickly. It is vital, therefore, to grab the attention of the audience right at the start, and a story, quote or anecdote can help do the job. Use celebrities, television programmes or perhaps a recent problem or challenge that staff and management have overcome together as this basis for an amusing story. This can get the audience on the speaker’s side, but the presentation must then move on quickly to tell listeners what the talk is about and what benefits should be gleaned from it.

When speaking in public, a manager should try to make the presentation as visually rich as possible. Flip charts, graphics, images and PowerPoint presentations can often get an idea across better than a few hundred words. Use colours, bullet points and anecdotes to keep the presentation interesting and, if possible, think of a slogan that can unite the material into a common theme.

Summarise Key Points

There is a natural limit to the amount of information an audience can take in and remember, so keep complexity and detail to a bare minimum and summarise key points at the start and end of the talk. Give the presentation a structure, so that it is easier for staff to follow. For instance, explain the present position, highlight the desired goal, state the solution and outline the resources required.

Be clear, precise and specific about the problems to be overcome, support any statements with facts and be ready to answer a range of questions about the proposal. Be positive and stress that there are remedies for any problems highlighted. Move as quickly as possible away from the present problems and focus on the proposed solutions.

Whether the proposal recommends a change in procedure, a re-allocation of responsibility, a call for more resources, a new product, an organisational change, a new technique or a promotion, it is vital to state clearly what the proposal will do and the goal it will achieve. Above all else, make sure the ideas are defined clearly and unambiguously.

Interruptions Can be Constructive

Those new to public speaking can be thrown off their stride by interruptions, but if handled in the right way, interruptions can make a presentation come alive and improve team building. This is because many objections contain ideas that can improve a proposal. Respond to interruptions positively and maintain the flow of the presentation.

If an interruption is aggressive, ask if there are similar views in the audience. Always keep cool, irrespective of the provocation, as poise will work in the speaker’s favour. Don’t ignore persistent critics, as this will have a detrimental effect on team building. Instead, take persistent critics to one side at the end of the meeting and ask them for their suggestions. If unable to answer any questions, promise to get back with an answer at a later date.

Speaking in public is not just about what is said, it is also about how the message is delivered. For instance, if a speaker has an upright and relaxed stance, with feet shoulder-width apart, they can create an impression of confidence. Use hands expressively to support words, move purposefully and change to a more upbeat tone when describing solutions.

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