I am speaking at an upcoming event. How do I command the room?
Always think of your job as persuading the audience, not dumping information on them. Your presentation should begin by setting up the problem for which your information is the solution. Figure out what you want the audience to do differently as a result of your presentation, and persuade them of that. If you’ve presented the problem well, you’ve made your job easier. Audiences appreciate information delivered in a way that makes sense to them.
Sometimes vary when you take questions. Most speakers talk for 45 minutes and take questions at the end. But a typical attention span lasts about 20 minutes, so by 45 minutes, you’ve used up two attention cycles. Then there’s the problem of leaving your parting words at the mercy of the questioners–the session may end not with your brilliant, prepared thoughts, but with the last dumb question. Instead, stop for questions at the 20 and 40 minute marks. Then, if you wish, pause one last time for questions at the end. But be sure to save time to deliver a killer closing remark.
Never fall into the Power Point Triangle of Death. I have seen so many speakers–even confident, highly paid speakers–talk to their slides instead of the audience. When the speaker stands between the computer and the screen, all his motions and gestures are confined to that triangle, not focused on the audience. Why is that bad? People are only interested in motion toward or away from them. Motion directed toward the screen or a computer causes us to check out. Learn your slides so you can address the audience.
Nick Morgan is the founder of executive training company Public Words and author of several books about public speaking.