I knew I was in trouble as I walked in the room. The speaker had not said a word yet my expectations were low and getting lower.
The room was dry and sterile – nothing inviting about it. It was dimly lit with the ubiquitous blue image on the screen signaling an impending PowerPoint. The room was hard to find – there were no signs to direct me and I was irritated at the cost of parking my car. I noticed the room was devoid of refreshments – including water or coffee. I thought longingly of the last cup of coffee sitting in the carafe at home and the bottle of water on the front seat of my car.
It was one minute to start time and I was already watching the clock. The presenter had shot himself in the foot before opening his mouth.
I contrast this with a workshop I attended a few days prior. An email provided me with directions, a map, and other basic information. When I approached the building there was a sign outside directing me to the workshop. I was greeted by an enthusiastic instructor who warmly welcomed me, directed me to a spread of food, offered me a nametag, and took time to introduce me to another person she felt I would “click” with. The room was bright and cheerful and the food delicious.
Yes, it does take extra time, effort, and sometimes money to make your audience feel like a guest rather than a number. However, one of these instructors had turned me off before he started speaking. The other had won me over to her side.
Here are some hints:
- Use directional signs from the parking all the way to the room
- Send a welcoming note explaining logistics, parking, and time needed to get from parking to the room
- Greet guests at the door
- Provide refreshments (no one learns when they are distracted by an empty stomach)
- Provide nametags to encourage interaction
- Have guests enter a well-lit room with the Power Point off
- Consider aesthetics (e.g. using an attractive meeting room, tablecloth on the snack table, flowers, music, art, or posters on the walls)
Everything you do sets the expectations of the audience and affects their attitude. How they feel will affect how open they are to receiving your information. It is true; the devil is in the details.
- Making the Mundane Exciting and the Exciting Mundane
- Five Bad Assumptions You Can Make About Speaking
- Improve Your Presentation Skills at Speakers Night Out
© 2010 iSpeakEASY. All rights reserved – This speaking tip is one in a series provided by iSpeakEASY. We help people profit from their words. Call for information on individual coaching or group workshops.