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  • Writer's pictureDavid Kendrick

Are you talking TO your audience, or AT them?

Let me set the scene: you hear the significant introduction of the speaker, you clap when they walk up to the stage, then after two minutes you go "Uh oh". Why does this happen? You immediately notice that the speaker that your company paid $20K is going to talk AT YOU for the next 45 minutes, not talk TO YOU.

What does it sound like to be talked AT?

  • Itsoundslikethis.Aspeakertalkingtoyoufor45minutesanddoesntgivetheirsentencesroomtobreathe.Theirisnoinflectionintheirvoice,andeverythingseemslikearun-onsentence.

This is when your audience goes:

They know they are in for a long night and people will notice if they leave the table for the 45 minutes and magically return when the speech is over. A bad speaker doesn't know how to incorporate the audience into their speech, and it will show immediately. They think they are the main attraction, and you are lucky just to be in their presence and have them speak to you.

A surefire way you can tell if your speaker talked at the audience is during the Q&A session. If you hear crickets during the Q&A session, then your audience doesn't want to be talked to anymore…they want out!

There is also death by PowerPoint. At many of the conferences I have been invited to have a line of speakers before my keynote speech. Mental health conferences, tech conferences, and non-profit fundraisers have presenters that use spreadsheets composed of multiple data sets. This data may be relevant to employees in the C-Suite, but frontline employees and people not familiar with your industry will zone out if you don’t find ways to incorporate them.

Now let's get into what it sounds like to be talked TO.

Basically, it's a conversation with your audience. Your audience doesn't know you, so breaking the ice is imperative. Here's a quick tip: do some research on the company or town you are in. Make a joke, about the industry or the city (the local sports team, the weather, or a company that calls the city home). That lowers the guard for the audience, and lets them know "ok, this person knows us, he's going to entertain us".

Then continue to engage your audience. Make them laugh, make them think, and make them care about what you have to say. For a cheap pop from the crowd, mention the people you sat with before you got up to speak. That's evidence that you paid attention to the people that talked with before you walked on stage.

While on stage, you have the undivided attention of the audience. Use your stage to keep it by walking around! If you have a microphone that allows you to move around then move from side to side on the stage. Walking around the stage involves the entire audience, allowing people to see you up close. You’d be surprised how many pictures/videos take of you when you are on stage.

When I first started my speaking career, I was definitely talking AT my audience. My speeches were being written for me, and I would look down at speech the entire time while reading word for word. It looked like this:

It took time for me to develop my skills and start having conversations with my audience. With time, you will evolve into a great speaker. When I moved to Atlanta, I perfected my skills at the Rising Phoenix Toastmasters out of Marietta. There are a lot of professionals that attend Toastmasters to become better, more effective communicators. You can find your local Toastmasters by visiting their website Toastmasters International -Home. Or…you can send me a message to inquire about having me tutor you!


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