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Who is your audience? word on white ring binder notebook with hand holding pencil on wood table,Business concept.

Public Speaking: 10 Questions To Analyze Your Audience

What would you think of a dermatologist who offered you a diagnosis for an itchy red spot on your leg that’s been growing larger for weeks—without even bothering to look at it?

Not much, probably. No wonder it makes me nervous when I see presenters rushing into any audience without knowing anything about the people to whom they’re speaking. They’re making the same mistake as the dermatologist.

Here are 10 questions you should ask before speaking to any audience.

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The One Question To Ask Before Every Presentation

What is your bright shiny object?

If there’s just one headline, one idea, or one takeaway message that your audience remembers three months from now, what do you want that to be?

I’ve posed that seemingly simple question to thousands of speakers. Few are able to answer it directly, at least at first. Some can’t answer it even after they’ve finished putting their presentations together.

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13 Ways To Break The Pattern During A Speech

We humans acclimate rather quickly to unchanging stimuli. Just as we normally tune out the feel of our shirt, the gentle hum of a ceiling fan, and the comforting scent of our morning coffee, we tune out speakers who become too predictable.

But that offers us a vital clue about how to keep our audiences interested: do the opposite. Just as we evolved the capacity to tune out static, we developed a keen ability to detect change in the environment. We notice things that are different—or that “break a pattern.”

In this post, you’ll learn more about retaining the audience’s attention—and learn 13 ways to break the pattern.

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Concrete or Abstract

Where Are You On The Abstraction Ladder?

In his 1949 book Language in Thought and Action, linguist S.I. Hayakawa explained his “Abstraction Ladder.” As he visualized it, the bottom rungs contained the most concrete ideas (a cow named Bessie), while the top rungs contained more abstract concepts (he used “livestock” and “farm asset” as examples).

Great presentations rarely remain at the top of the ladder for long. Concrete examples—which contain the vivid detail and emotional content that stick with audiences—are found toward the bottom rung.

Still, both types of content have an important role to play. Here’s how to balance your concrete and abstract material perfectly.

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Be a Water Fountain, Not a Fire Hose | Public Speaking

The human brain is wired not to guzzle new information in an onslaught, but to digest it in modest sips. Memory studies show that most people can retain only a few “chunks” of information at a time—as few as three or four—and information that doesn’t get richly encoded at the time of exposure often disappears within seconds, never making the critical journey to long-term storage.

If our goal is to shine a light on the points that matter most, we must strip away those that don’t. Here are a few ideas about how to do that most effectively.

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How To Deliver A Great Speech From Memory

Audiences can often tell when a speaker has memorized their talk. It’s almost as if someone has pressed play on the presenter—but when the speaker forgets a word or loses their place, you can practically see the tape unspooling from their brain’s cassette.

And yet, it’s undeniable that some impressive speakers possess the rare talent of delivering a memorized script while sounding conversational and reacting in the moment to unexpected events.

If you’re determined to memorize your talk, you’ll want to remember these three words.

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iPad Teleprompter App

Four Tips When Speaking From A Teleprompter

There it is: your entire presentation, sitting in front of you on a teleprompter like a warm, comfortable, digital security blanket. Politicians use them. TV hosts use them. Why shouldn’t you?

The most direct answer is that speaking from a teleprompter is hard. If most speakers who read from a prepared script sound like they’re reading from a script, imagine how much tougher it is to read one from two small panels of glass, flanked on the speaker’s left and right sides!

Because it’s difficult for most speakers to develop a rapport with their audiences while using a teleprompter, we typically discourage their use. But in limited circumstances, teleprompters can remain a useful tool.

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How To Deliver A Great Presentation Using “Holes”

We frequently work with executives who open a practice speech with a statement along these lines: “Thank you for coming. I’m excited that you joined us today for this unprecedented announcement.”

The problem? They’re reading those opening lines from their scripts while looking down and making scant eye contact with their audiences. Here’s what I tell them when we review their tapes together: If a line intended to be sincere has to be read from the page, it will lose all sincerity.

That’s why we encourage many speakers using a script to insert a “hole.” Here’s how to do it.

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