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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
101 Ways to Captivate a Business Audience
By Sue Gaulke
AMACOMCopyright © 1997 Sue Gaulke
All rights reserved.
Your Audience Speaks
I always sit in the quick-exit seats, the ones right by the door. When I attend a presentation, I want the option of escaping the clutches of a boring speaker who's wasting my time. I'm amazed at the number of people who will politely sit in their seats, trapped by a speaker from hell. Their minds scream, "Shut up!" while their bodies fidget in disgust.
Early in my career as a presentation skills coach, I was asked to provide some one-day programs for the Oregon State Bar Continuing Legal Education speakers. These were lawyers who were presenting programs to their peers. To research the task, and to find out all about these programs, I attended one of the organization's standard training sessions. Approximately 350 attorneys were seated behind rows of tables at the Hilton Hotel in downtown Portland, Oregon. You couldn't see many faces, because most of the attendees were reading their morning newspapers. The news must have been really captivating that day, because when the speaker started to talk, most of the newspapers remained in their upright positions. Wait a minute; something's out of place here, I thought. The speaker has begun, and most of the audience is ignoring him. And if that's not enough, the speaker is ignoring their apparent total lack of interest.
My mission for this organization, and for the remainder of my professional life, became quite clear. I would train presenters to be so outstanding that in a setting like this, those newspapers would come crashing down. My job would be to help speakers captivate the audience and hold their attention right up to the closing line.
Defining a Strategy
I had a lot of questions. By what magic can people hold an audience spellbound? I was interested in the best. What's different about the top 5 percent? What presentation pitfalls must be avoided? How could I find the answers and then teach the required skills to my clients? I distilled my curiosity into three questions, given in Figure 1-1, which I posed to over 1,000 businesspeople throughout the United States. In this chapter, you will learn the secrets of spectacular speakers — from the audience's viewpoint. Their simplicity might surprise you!
The audiences represented a wide variety of occupations, including certified public accountant, engineer, company vice president, sales director, hairdresser, pilot, dentist, programmer, technical writer, financial analyst, pharmacist, secretary, and health care technician.
I administered the questionnaire at the beginning of the session, before the audience had a chance to be influenced by my training. I elaborated on the first question, asking everyone to consider the full gamut of speakers, trainers, instructors — everyone who, in their experience, had stood before two or more persons with something to say. Their choice could be a nationally known figure, a coworker, or the leader of a local scout troop. It was not necessary to remember the person's name; it was acceptable to identify the person in some other way, such as "the keynote speaker for last year's sales convention." I didn't want to place any limits on their selection. The detailed responses to my questions are summarized in the Appendix.
From the more than 1,000 responses I received, I randomly selected 200 for more detailed analysis. This review revealed a surprising number of similar perceptions that have become the cornerstone of my Speakers Training Camp. I share these findings with you, and I am confident that with this information, you can become someone's favorite speaker someday!
1. Listen to Your Audience
Get ready for the three most important things audiences like about their favorite speakers — and the three most important things you'll learn in this book. The audience responses were overwhelmingly weighted toward some simple advice to presenters.
Ranked according to number of responses, audiences say:
1. Be enthusiastic.
2. Be interesting — use humor and stories.
3. Be knowledgeable — know your stuff.
The secret to great presentations is not complicated at all. Audiences want a speaker who is outwardly excited about the topic, who uses bursts of humor, fun, and personal stories and examples to convey the message, and who is an expert in the topic.
2. Captivate With Steak, Sizzle, and Style
I packaged these concepts, giving them some snappy terms, and I refer to them as the three S's of Spectacular Speakers (see Figure 1-2).
I categorized the survey's responses into three areas: steak, sizzle, and style.
1. STEAK: Information, content, message, organization
2. SIZZLE: Stories, humor, anecdotes, audience participation — things that make a presentation interesting
3. STYLE: Gestures and voice: how a person moves, how his or her voice sounds, personality
3. Work Harder on Your Sizzle and Style
Most respondents ranked style and sizzle above steak.
That's right. Over half of the analyzed sample gave style (gestures, voice, personality) as the most desirable quality in their favorite speaker. About one-third stressed sizzle — stories, humor, anecdotes, audience participation — as most important. Only about 17 percent saw steak — information, content, message — as most important.
4. Avoid the Ten Terrible Turn-offs
Most people, at some time, have griped about something annoying that a speaker has said or done. Sometimes they're even bored into oblivion. There is a wide variety of complaints. Reading a presentation is definitely a turn-off. A presentation with no pizzazz is hard for most to endure. The "u/i" syndrome drives most folks batty. Nervous habits, speaking too long — the list is endless. But the number-1 complaint is not necessarily what you would expect. In fact, I was a little surprised to see that most of my respondents singled out, as the greatest turn-off:
Perhaps the audience interprets a monotone voice as a strong signal of lack of enthusiasm. If this is true, then lots of voice fluctuations and voice energy are needed to convey enthusiasm (which the audiences have indicated is their number-1 request).
After everyone had completed the surveys, I asked the individuals in the group to explain their answers. I could tell that when we came to the section about speaker complaints, "What is the worst thing a speaker can do to turn you off, bug you, even make you grind your teeth in agony!" the audience was eager to share their horror stories. They could hardly wait to outdo one another in the "worst speaker I've ever seen" department. It was as though they were unleashing years of pent-up emotions.
Audiences have a strong and eager voice when it comes to complaints about speakers. Here are the ten terrible turn-offs (in order):
1. Monotone voice
3. Being boring, uninteresting
4. The "and-uh" syndrome (uh, um, you know ...)
5. Lack of preparation: being unorganized, rambling, becoming sidetracked
6. Nervous habits: fidgeting, swaying, annoying body language
7. Speaking too long, going overtime
8. Repeating, repeating, repeating
9. Not making eye contact
10. Not relating to the audience: no audience involvement, not tuned in to the audience's needs
Besides the top ten, there are additional things that can disturb the audience. Many of them seem petty, but they can be so grating to someone sitting in the audience that he or she will stop listening to the message. What a great way to take a personal inventory on possible blunders. Remember, the audience was asked to list the worst thing a presenter can do. The list of audience turn-offs continues (in no particular order):
* Going overboard on details: too many numbers on an overhead transparency, "a zillion words" on one transparency
* No facial expression
* No humor
* Humor that doesn't work: bad jokes, discrimination, etc.
* Not knowing the facts
* Acting like a know-it-all
* Inappropriate language, slang
* Talking too fast
* Talking too softly
* Covering too much in a short period of time
* Grammatical errors
* No message
* Not getting to the point
* Losing control of the audience
* Having no personality
* Being too serious
5. Be Creative With Both Technical and Nontechnical Audiences
Finally, I was surprised when I compared the answers of one professional group with those of another. I had thought that engineers and lawyers, for example, would be most interested in the technical expertise of the presenters, whereas trainers and marketing professionals might lean toward more flamboyant, entertaining speakers. I was wrong! On the contrary:
All types of audiences, regardless of profession, favored creative speakers!
Whether I was analyzing a group of computer experts, accountants, or salespeople, the same pattern emerged. Approximately 85 percent of the people in any group said, "Be dynamic." "Motivate me." "Entertain me." Only about 15 percent were most interested in the bottom line, data, and facts.
Who says speaking has to be difficult? You just give the audience what they want, steak, sizzle, and style, and you avoid the terrible turn-offs.
6. Audiences Want Steak: Know Your Stuff
According to the audience members, here are the top seven things you can do to ensure that you are delivering just the right "steak." Audiences say:
[check] Be knowledgeable — know the topic thoroughly,
[check] Be organized. Use a logical and simple format. Ideas should flow easily.
[check] Have a clear message.
[check] Focus on the main issues. Get to the point.
[check] Make your points clear and memorable.
[check] Be prepared.
[check] Give the audience some how-to ideas.
7. Audiences Want Sizzle: Be Interesting
Sizzle is what happens when you add some heat to the "steak." It's a message zipped up with interest, creativity, and entertainment. Among ways to do this, humor was the overwhelming favorite. That was expected. But what was interesting was that all types of audiences during all types of presentations ranked humor as the number-1 item they liked in presenters. All types of audiences like humor. They rank it as their favorite speaker skill. Even when the subject was serious or technical, the audience enjoyed a good laugh. When it comes to laughter, there are no dividing lines between professions. Laughter is universal.
The following are the top eight requests for sizzle:
[check] Use humor. Have fun.
[check] Be interesting. Do something creative.
[check] Tell stories.
[check] Relate your message to the audience.
[check] Use audience participation.
[check] Relay personal anecdotes,
[check] Give real-life examples.
[check] Be entertaining.
In addition to humor, stories were also very popular with the various audiences. Listeners particularly enjoy personal stories and true-to-life experiences, especially those that relate to their world.
8. Audiences Want Style: Be Enthusiastic
Style comments cover (1) gestures and nonverbals (what we see) and (2) voice (what we hear).
For example, one attorney cited former President Kennedy as his favorite speaker for three reasons. He was:
1. "Engaging — you wanted to hear what he had to say."
2. "Sincere — you felt like he was speaking to you."
3. "Dynamic — every word seemed to count; you didn't want to turn away or miss anything."
Audiences want to see outward signs of enthusiasm in gestures and voice. Not one respondent preferred a soft-spoken, easygoing, mellow, laid-back style. Audiences are looking for outgoing personalities in their presenters.
Listed below (in order) are the eight most critical style components identified by the audiences:
5. A strong and commanding voice
7. Voice fluctuations
8. An articulate presenter
Develop Your Own Steak, Sizzle, and Style
As my research developed and the concepts of steak, sizzle, and style emerged, I began using these three categories in my Speakers Training Camps. I found that the simplicity was just what my trainees wanted. Rather than bombarding them with an overwhelming amount of information, I decided to package the entire training into the three categories steak, sizzle, and style. I'd like to do the same thing for you. Keep it simple. Delivering presentations is not a monstrous task. Once you think in terms of steak, sizzle, and style, you'll see how easy it is. The chapters in this book are also organized according to those three critical areas. You'll learn ninety-three more ways to captivate a business audience.CHAPTER 2
Connect With Your Audience
It takes two: you and the audience. This chapter talks about the stuff in the middle — the glue, the bond, the connection between speaker and listener. With a plan and lots of ambition, you will have a better understanding of your audience's point of view. Your audience, in turn, will be ready and willing to accept your message.
9. Know Your Audience
10. Find an Informant
11. Step Into Their Shoes
12. Get in Synch With Your Audience
13. Become an Insider
14. Activate Their "On" Buttons
15. Enhance Your Charisma Factor
16. Develop Your OOMPH
17. Reach Into Their Souls
18. Tame the Troublemakers
9. Know Your Audience
No two audiences are the same. If you do your homework, you will be prepared to design your message for a particular audience. Even if you are delivering your presentation to people you know, don't overlook these issues:
[check] How many people?
[check] What is the age range?
[check] Male or female?
[check] What are their responsibilities and job titles?
[check] Have they heard presenters on this topic before?
[check] What is their interest in your topic?
[check] How much do they know about your topic?
[check] Are they in agreement with you?
[check] Who are the decision-makers?
[check] What are their expectations?
[check] What are their top three concerns/needs regarding this topic?
[check] What are their hobbies and interests?
[check] Are there any current "hot buttons" at work?
[check] Are there any sensitive issues?
[check] If you are speaking in another part of the United States or another country, what special factors do you need to consider?
[check] Are there any community issues you should be aware of?
[check] What do they expect you to wear?
[check] What types of stories and examples would work best with this audience?
10. Find an Informant
To discover vital insider information and really be a person in the know, you have to become a sharp detective. But how do you go about it?
First you need an informant. It might be someone in the organization — your contact person. It might be someone who will be in your audience. It might be someone in the personnel department. Find someone who knows the guts of the organization. Some information might not come from a person at all. Explore the news in the community newspaper, the company newsletter, posters on the company walls, plaques, awards — anything that will help you to discover more about your audience.
Here are four discovery questions that will aid in your search:
1. What are three current and important community issues:
2. What are the employees facing in terms of:
* Problems _______________________________________
* Challenges _____________________________________
* Successes ______________________________________
3. What are their top two concerns regarding the topic of my presentation?
4. Are there any significant events such as strikes, relocations, mergers, top sales year, birthdays, promotions? ____________
Excerpted from 101 Ways to Captivate a Business Audience by Sue Gaulke. Copyright © 1997 Sue Gaulke. Excerpted by permission of AMACOM.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
ContentsList of the 101 Ways, ix,
Part One Steak, 1,
1 Your Audience Speaks, 3,
2 Connect With Your Audience, 13,
3 Steak: Organization Made Easy, 24,
Part Two Sizzle, 39,
4 Add Sizzle Every Six Minutes, 41,
Part Three Style, 51,
5 Control Nervousness: The Star Wars Theory, 53,
6 Style: Becoming a "10", 62,
7 Master the Magic in Your Voice, 74,
8 Create Exciting Visual Aids, 85,
9 Bulletproof Your Presentation, 99,
10 Stupid Meetings? Try Some Steak, Sizzle, and Style, 110,
11 This Stuff Really Works, 123,
Part Four Standing Ovation: Quick Tips and Resources, 129,
Camp Chat: Answers to the Most Frequently Asked Questions, 131,
Quick Tips, 142,
Recommended Resources, 149,