Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes discusses great ways for speakers to collect and assess audience feedback. This article would be great to share with students who want to make serious improvements in their speeches or who are struggling with how to interpret the responses they are getting from the audience.
The article makes several suggestions for the speaker to get more useful feedback. For example, follow up a general compliment like “that was great” with questions like “what part most resonated with you?” Also, pay attention to the questions: If the questions are demonstrating that the audience missed points that you covered, it indicates that you need to make sure your main ideas are being made more clearly.
Also, the suggestions for soliciting good feedback could be used by instructors, especially if you make use of peer reviews. The article gives some specific questions that could make a peer review form stronger, like “what was the most useful thing you learned?” It also gives other suggestions that teachers could use to help students assess audience feedback which professional speakers sometimes use, like filming the audience during the speech to review later.
Ciara Byrne of Fast Company has compiled several tips from speaker and author Nancy Duarte about helping speakers make technical material more engaging for their audience. While these tips are great for a class full of business or science majors, they would apply equally to any public speaking classroom where students are falling into a pattern of dull speeches.
Some of the tips I found most compelling:
- Avoid PowerPoints full of bullets. Tell a story with a hero — and the hero is not the speaker but the audience.
- The audience is there to hear you speak, not to have the slides speak for you.
- Create contrast. When something changes in your presentation, the audience is re-engaged.
The story also has some good examples to share with a technical-minded audience.
If you have a class of science or business majors, this could be a chance to create an in-class activity (or longer homework assignment) as well. Give students a transcript of a dull grant-request presentation, for example, and have them look for ways to apply some of these suggestions. A failed bid from a “Shark Tank”-type of television show could work.
The Simpsons: Season 20, episode 8
Audience adaptation involves adjusting your message to reach your audience, but is not the same thing as telling an audience what it wants to hear. In this episode of “The Simpsons” is a scene where Lisa and Mr. Burns both make a persuasive appeal to the Springfield audience. Lisa’s impassioned plea to save the bees falls short when Mr. Burns manipulates the audience to achieve his goal.
Follow-up questions include: What more could Lisa have done to appeal to the audience? Did Mr. Burns break any ethical rules with his approach?
The Simpsons: Season 3, episode 23
In this episode, Lisa orders Homer subliminal tapes that are meant to help him lose weight with no effort. The tape supplier sends “vocabulary builder” tapes instead. Homer is discouraged that the tapes are not working, but they actually are.
One portion of the clip is now available here. It is a nice illustration of the difference between using language that is accurate and language that is clear.
While not all of the advice might be appropriate for a classroom speech (like #8, bring on another speaker) there is a lot of great advice here, both for student speakers and for instructors seeking to make class more engaging. For students, I would emphasize the points about asking questions, using videos, giving the audience mental breaks, and telling stories.
In addition, at the end is a link to the next post in the series “How to Deal with an Unresponsive Audience” that also has some nice advice.
The blog at Prezi.com took advice about how to deal with delivery problems from Terry Gault of The Henderson Group and created this memorable visual aid.
Using the anagram ABSORB, it gives simple and easy to remember advice for what to do if the worst happens during a presentation.
The visual would be a good addition to class, along with a discussion allowing the students to share additional advice or stories of what they have seen done well or badly.
The Prezi blog features a guest presentation from James White of Media First called “How to Rock a Presentation When you Can’t See Your Audience.”
The article features five tips specifically for recorded or online presentations. In addition to written advice, there is a short Prezi slideshow with videos and graphics that would make a great visual aid to use in class.
This would be a great addition to an online class that might require such presentations as part of class or for a business communication class where students would surely be required to do them in the future.
The Fast Company web site offers “4 Common Vocal Mistakes Leaders Make.” This interview with Vocal Impact Productions founder Laura Sicola describes four mistakes that speakers can make with their voice that can undermine their credibility and make their carefully prepared message harder to follow.
The mistakes — like sounding uninterested in their own message — are all things students are at risk of doing during speeches.
The article would be great supplemental reading, especially for a business communication class, about why students should be working to break these bad habits early. The article’s final suggestion — practice the tone you want to have and record it to see how you are doing — can be great advice for students planning careers with a lot of speaking responsibilities.
Andrew Dlugan of Six Minutes offers some great advice about timing a presentation.
Students and new presenters often struggle with getting the timing right and make the mistake of trying to rush to work in all of their material. It is a better strategy to learn how to make adjustments to the speech while you have the audience’s full attention. This article suggests five ways to do that.
This would be good as supplemental reading for students or to create an in-class activity asking students for suggestions about what a speaker should do to get their timing right and then follow up with suggestions like these.
The blog at Prezi recently featured “The Ultimate Presentation Preparation Checklist.” The list does not focus on writing the speech itself, but on the context of the speech, particularly audience adaptation and delivery.
The list has 18 questions that the presenter must ask when preparing for the speech, which are sorted into five categories, and then suggestions for using that information. The questions cover issues about the setting — will there be a podium — and about the audience — are they going to be a captive audience?
The list could be turned into a homework assignment, to have students assess the class as an audience before one of their own speeches. It could also be offered as reading material to students.