Tape and W-D40

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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

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