Last week I taught presentations skills. Just as we were beginning the first break, someone new came in. “I couldn’t sign up for this class,” she said, “but I hope you’ll help me anyway. I’m speaking at a conference next week. Do you have any quick suggestions for me?”
Well, I sure did. Here they are for you, too.
1. Use rope or ribbon and a sign to make a reserved section in the back of the room.
You’ll encourage people to sit closer to each other and to you. Who sits in the reserved section? People who arrive after you start speaking. Now they have a place to sit–without being embarrassed, and without distracting the rest of the audience.
2. Manage cell phones, or they will manage you.
One fun way is to ask participants to get out their cell phones and discover one feature they never use. Now ask them to find one of these features–off, no-ring, or vibrate. (A word of caution: once a phone rings in the audience, it is very difficult to say anything that doesn’t seem critical or condescending.)
3. Prepare for the unexpected.
No presentation, speech, or facilitation ever happens exactly the way I expect. Most go smoothly, and leave me energized. And often it’s the unanticipated and unpredictable developments that make working with an audience fun.
4. Like sunsets and snowflakes, every audience is unique.
Even if this group seems to be just like others you’ve worked with, be prepared for different reactions and feedback.
5. Don’t try to be the expert. If you do, the audience will watch for your mistakes, If, on the other hand, you speak to them as a peer sharing your knowledge, they’ll appreciate and support you-and share their knowledge.
6. If you relax, your audience will relax.
More than likely, if you have fun, your audience will have fun. If you learn something, your audience will learn something.
7. And what about duct tape and WD-40?
Make sure the door in the back of the room opens and closes quietly. Tape the latch. Sometimes little things make a big difference. No matter how engaging your presentation, someone may have to leave early.
Now your audience is seated close to you. Their cell phones are off. You are prepared for the unexpected, and attuned to this particular group. Everyone is sharing expertise. You’re at least a little relaxed. When someone leaves early, you don’t take it personally and no one else even notices.
So, pack up your duct tape and WD-40 and relax.Tape and W-D40
During our 90 minutes together, each time a device rang or beeped, she responded. Although she responded to each of the 12 summonses in less than a minute, I left our meeting feeling jangled.
The next person I met with closed his office door as he came to greet me. He turned off the ringer on his phone, then looked up, and made eye contact. We covered our agenda. He took notes. We were not interrupted.
After 45 productive, business-focused minutes (and 10 minutes of chatting), I left feeling informed and connected.
Is it always responsible to be responsive?
Are you ever wired instead of connected?
My great aunt will be 96 this month.
Her only child died last November.
He was in his seventies.My aunt is doing quite well.
She gets up every day.
She dresses herself.
She walks, or as my kids say, she scuffles.
She eats her meals in the senior center.
She gives. She listens. She loves.
She smiles at everyone who lives and works in the center.
She is alert.
She is vital.
She is not in denial.
When I am down, or overwhelmed or stressed,
or when I have a challenging decision to make,
I visit her.
I have asked her how she manages her losses.
She says managing stress is quite simple:
Life is not perfect.
Not everyone is kind, but everyone needs kindness.
Control what you can control (which is very little),
Let go of everything else.
Keep life’s routines. Get dressed. Exercise. Be spiritual.
Give love every day.
It always comes back.
When I teach stress management, I hear about alcoholism, abusive relationships, money worries, failed health, job problems.
I know my aunt is right–managing stress is simple.
Knowing, however, is different from doing.
May you live to be vibrant at 96,
To give love and be loved by those around you.