An edited and revised book on public speaking for introverts based on the articles from this site
Your Performance : Using Other People
Having looked at yourself – how you use the stage, your body language and non-verbal gestures and even the tone of your voice, its time to think about one more part of your performance, one you might not have considered:
When you perform – when you present – even when you talk to someone else, there are always more than one person involved. You may be there presenting, but everyone else is there listening. A great presentation – a great performance not only delivers the message to them – it engages your audience and mankes them take the message in.
How does one do that?
We’ve talked about lots of the tricks and techniques of speakers in other articles – but a good example is one I’ve just given. Ask your audience a question. Asking a question is simple, but anyone who hears the question begins – automatically – to come up with a response. They are not just hearing what you’re saying, but listening to it. A rhetorical question is a great start – and perhaps easy for people who are nervous of their crowd, but better still can be to ask for a show of hands – something that really makes people stand up and pay attention (and – if you want, you can always ask people to stand up rather than raising their hands – that really makes them pay attention)
A lot of speakers like to keep their audience by making them laugh. While the art of humour in speeches would require a book on its own, I’m sure you’re used to the experience of telling a joke – and then not getting the laugh you want. Don’t be afraid of this, every audience is different. and as a speaker you have to get to learn the sort of crowd you are playing to. If a joke doesn’t work, tell another. A small titter is enough, once a crowd are laughing, they wil carry on giggling more and more as you continue. And because they are being entertained, information is sneaking into their heads without them noticing (which is, perhaps, the aim of the most cunning presenter). Feel you audience, read their laughs, and, if after a while the jokes arn’t working, go onto something else.
Try to shock your audience. Do something they don’t expect. If you need to jump in the air, to shout suddenly, to hit yourself, or to fall to the ground, don’t be afraid. If you think your audience are fearing your presentation is going to be dull and boring, make sure they’re wrong. Use things out of context – talking about going to the pub in a work presentation can really shift the mood. Telling a story about someone else, then revealing it was you that the event happened to can make a room full of people side with you. Sharing something from your history that most people would keep hidden is an easy way to grab attention (and sometimes sympathy) – I started a presentation with the phrase “I escaped from the mental hospital fifteen years ago – and so far I haven’t been caught” – the speech was about overcoming depression, but the opening sentence certainly drew the crowds attention.
Finally, as well as considering your audience, consider the other people that will have been speaking to them. I’ve seen a lot of people speak in a lot of different contexts, and I’m sure you’ll agree, most people who speak – even some professional public speakers - are pretty terrible.
Your job is not to be the best public speaker in the world. It isn’t even to be the best public speaker at an event. Your job is to be in the top quarter. The top twenty-five percent. And this is easy. A little practise and the information I’ve provided is enough to get anybody to this level in almost any situation. On’ve you’re in the top quarter, people will compare you to the other speakers and be so glad that you’re someone who knows what they are doing, someone who appreciates that performance is as importance as information content in a speach, that they will listen to you – they will want to be your friend.
Entertaining your crowd will get them on your side. And once you’ve got the crowd on your side, you really can’t lose. You will make a presentation everybody wants to talk about.