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Public Speaking Tip #51: Mastering the Power of Thanks

If done correctly, there is tremendous power in thanking your audience at the beginning of a presentation.

But for many public speakers and business presenters, this becomes a missed opportunity. How often have you heard a speaker begin a presentation with something like this: “I would like to start by saying thank you for having me. When I got the invitation to speak here, I was thrilled. I am truly honored for this opportunity to speak to you.”

Notice how many times the word “I” or “me” is used in that introduction vs. how many times the word “you” or “we” is used. The “I/me” to “you,/we” count is 5-2. The words seem humble enough, but the point of view is all about the speaker, not the audience.

A good presentation — one that really connects and engages — is always all about the audience.

Audience-Centric Thanks

Here’s the secret: Before thanking your audience offhandedly, give some serious thought to exactly what you are thanking them for. What effort did they take to be there? Did they take time out of their busy day or forgo something else in their lives in order to attend? Did they travel from a great distance to be there? Why are they there?

Doping a little research and thinking about your audience will get you focused on delivering a thank you that connects with them.

I recently shared this advice with a friend who was speaking at a 5:30 p.m. public event. He began his remarks with this: “Thank you for coming today. I know some of you had to rush from work to get here. And I know some others of you had to make childcare arrangements in order to attend. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t think this issue was important. I know that working together, there is a lot we can accomplish. So thank you all for coming.”

This time, the “I/me” to “you,/we” count is 3-6. More importantly, the point of view is all about the audience.

As my friend was giving his audience-centric thank you, I saw heads nodding in the audience. Others who were sitting back in their chairs started to lean forward. My friend was engaging the audience because he was speaking directly to them.

Connecting Right Away

It’s important to connect with your audience right away because you might not get a second chance. Smartphone technology has made it easier than ever for audiences to tune out. If you can’t capture their attention in the first two minutes, your audience may never hear all the great things you have to say in your presentation.

An audience-centric thank you is a great way to get your presentation off to a great start.

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Public Speaking Tip #17: Know Your Audience

 

Public Speaking Tip #50: Perfect Panel Presentations

You’ve probably been to a business conference and seen a panel discussion. Some are entertaining and informative. But others are uncoordinated, hard to follow and the panelists seem ill-prepared. In short, these are a waste of time for conference attendees and often public speaking disasters.

If you are asked to participate in a panel discussion, you’ll want you and your fellow panelists to shine. Following are some tips to make sure your panel presentation is a success.

But first, we need to understand what a panel is not and what it is.

What a Panel Discussion Is Not

I’ve been to many conferences where an event is billed as “a panel discussion.” The panelists sit side by side and pass a microphone from one to the other as they each talk about their area of expertise. This is not a panel discussion. This is a series of mini-presentations.

What a Panel Discussion Is

Panel discussions require the presence of a skilled moderator to direct a structured conversation. The moderator should begin by describing the purpose of the discussion and introducing the panel members. The moderator then launches the discussion by directing a question to one or more of the participants. At the conclusion of the discussion, the moderator may then direct questions from the audience. The moderator also will present a concluding statement. Just as we advise for a solo presentation, the conclusion should come after the Q&A.

How to Prepare

Before the presentation, the moderator should circulate an outline and explain the ground rules to the panel participants. From the outline, the panelists will have an idea of the main questions that will be asked. They will provide unscripted answers and the moderator may ask follow-up questions. When one panelist answers a question, others may politely chime in. In other words, it’s a conversation.

When preparing remarks for a panel discussion, or when preparing to serve as a moderator, consider the following:

  • Who is your audience? What do they know about the topic? What ideas can be emphasized to encourage greater understanding?
  • What aspects of the topic will each participant address? What are their areas of expertise?
  • How much time is allotted for the Q&A?
  • Which key points should be reviewed in your conclusion?

Rather than having people sit in a row, consider having them arranged in a semi-circle to facilitate dialogue. The accompanying photo, from the McGlaughlin Group TV show, depicts such an arrangement.

By following these tips, you can put together a lively and informative panel discussion.

Public Speaking Tip #49: Team Presentations

“Great things in business are never done by one person; they’re done by a team of people.” – Steve Jobs

Working in project teams is increasingly becoming the way many businesses get work done. That means having to present as a team at a business meeting is becoming more common as well. Teams frequently have to put forward ideas, get their projects and funding requests approved, and present project status updates.

Preparing and delivering a team presentation has its own unique public speaking challenges and opportunities. If your team presentation comes across as uncoordinated and disjunct, it calls into question all the information that your team presented. Conversely, a well-prepared and smooth presentation creates a perception that your team works well together, and that its members have done their homework and know what they’re talking about.

The following tips can help you and your team members collaborate more effectively when preparing for a team presentation.

  1. Establish Goals and Information Needs. Make sure each team members agrees on what the presentation is trying to accomplish and what the scope and type of research will be needed.
  2. Assign Roles and Tasks. Designate a team captain to help coordinate members, beginning with the selection of roles and tasks. Next, assign members to present the introduction, the body of the presentation, and the conclusion. Determine how the group will handle questions. Assign other responsibilities as needed.
  3. Establish Transitions Between Speakers. Determine how the team will handle transitions between speakers ahead of time. For example, decide if a designated group member will introduce every speaker or whether each speaker will introduce the next speaker upon the close of his or her presentation. Make sure everyone knows the order of the presenters.
  4. Consider Each Presenter’s Strength. Consider choosing the person with the strongest presentation style and credibility level for the opening. Put the more cautious presenters in the middle of the presentation. Select another strong speaker to conclude the presentation.
  5. Coordinate Presentation Aids. Consider assigning one person the job of coordinating templates for slides, video, and/or audio. Presentation aids should have a cohesive and unified look.
  6. Rehearse the Presentation. Rehearse the presentation together and include any presentation aids that will be used.
  7. Remember You’re Always On. Remember that even when someone else is speaking, the audience can still see you. So, make sure you are sitting up straight and paying attention to the other team members and the audience at all times. See related article.

These public speaking tips will help you and your team work together effectively and put together a polished business presentation.