There’s nothing worse to a presenter than a snoozing audience – we take it to mean that what we’re saying is uninformative, irrelevant or even worse, downright boring. But your speeches don’t have to be that way – you have a lot more control over how your audience perceives you than you may think.
- Consuming a big meal and/or alcohol
- Receiving bad news shortly before the presentation.
- Sitting through a long day of presentations (especially if those sessions were boring).
- The room where the event is held is unusually uncomfortable).
While these things do occur, they’re quite uncommon. Most likely, the presenter hasn’t put the effort into his or her speech to ensure that it’s worthwhile for the audience. And the good news is that it’s not that difficult.
It amazes me how so few people prepare for speeches and presentations, especially in the corporate world. Some executives assume that they can wing it, especially if they’re only addressing a small audience.
I worked for a company over a decade ago with an executive that did just that. He’d make a few notes without really practicing it and then speak to the entire company. So the speech was painful to sit through as it was unfocused and he tended to ramble on.
Outside of the corporate world, many speakers (even professionals) don’t take the time to research their audience to ensure that their topic is appropriate. They are just so excited to speak to any group that will let them and feel so passionate about their topic that they just assume everyone else feels the same way. The fastest way to a boring talk is to speak about something that has no bearing on the audience.
Use Humor Correctly:
Correctly is the operative word here. However, many presenters shy away from humor, especially in professional situations, because they feel the use of humor within speeches is unprofessional. Humor can be effective in almost any talk — I’ve even seen it used well in eulogies — but there are some situations where one should avoid humor at all costs and those situations are the type where giving a boring talk is the least of your concerns.
But don’t be afraid to slip a little humor into your talks every now and then. Just keep the following guidelines in mind:
- Make sure that the humor doesn’t involve terms or concepts that your audience won’t get.
- Avoid any humor that puts any person or group of people down — unless the person is in the room and you’re absolutely sure that he or she has a good sense of humor.
- Self-deprecating humor can be effective but don’t overdo it.
- Stick to safe humor that won’t offend anyone in the audience.
Vary Your Voice:
Actor Ben Stein made a career out of sounding boring and monotonous. His shtick was so popular that he performed it in numerous commercials, TV shows (he had a semi-recurring role on “Charles in Charge”) and this famous scene from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off:
Now Ben, a former speech writer for President Nixon who is also in demand as a paid speaker, doesn’t talk that way when giving a speech in real life, but it’s amazing how many presenters actually do. Sometimes it’s nervousness and sometimes the speaker is so focused on saying everything right that he or she isn’t thinking about how the speech is sounding.
Varying your voice in a speech is actually pretty easy. Here are a few quick tips:
- Speed up your pace to convey excitement to your audience. If you’re truly excited about your talk, this will often occur naturally.
- Use pauses effectively to give the audience time to think about what you’ve said.
- Change your volume to get your audience’s attention.
- If you’re quoting someone famous and can do a decent imitation, go for it.
And if these changes are too difficult for you, you could always use one of those cool Star Wars Darth Vader Voice Changer helmet which will add humor as well as help you change your voice.
So if you’ve sat through a boring talk recently, at least one of these three areas was the culprit. Not preparing is the most common however the other two are often the problem in technical talks. Keep these ideas in mind the next time you’re planning a talk and you’ll find a lot fewer folks snoozing in your audience.