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How to Avoid Audience Saturation

Aug 17, 2007
When I first started my speaking career I had to fight constantly against the urge to tell my audience everything I knew on the subject at hand within the one hour assigned to me. After the contract had been signed and the topic defined the conflict began. What content should I include? Which stories should I tell? What humorous anecdotes should I select? My answer to these questions was always, " Why not tell them everything you know?"

When I prepared a speech I had so much good resource material that I was easily seduced into giving the audience the whole works in one sitting. My rationale usually centered around the fact that I might only have one opportunity to share my accumulated wisdom with these people so I wanted to give them the whole package while I had the chance. This kind of thinking can get a speaker into difficulty on a few fronts:

1.If you share too much material in a limited period of time you run the risk of appearing disorganized and rushed. What you want is to come across as relaxed, focussed, knowledgeable and entertaining.

2. Imparting more content than is reasonable or desirable results in your attention being scattered thus giving the impression that content is more important than creating an intimate connection with your audience. In my opinion a good speaker is one who relates well to the people being addressed. When you are concentrating on quantity of material rather than on quality and intimacy you are heading in the wrong direction.

I don't want to give the impression that it isn't important to have a thorough and comprehensive understanding of your speech content. It is. But you also need to be able to effectively measure the dosage of content to the time available and the audience's ability to absorb the material you present.

Here are a few tips that I have found helpful in overcoming with my inclination to saturate my audiences.

Keep in mind that most people can only absorb five or six points in a speech. This seems to be all our human attention span can handle at one sitting. If this is true, it's pointless to feed them 30 or 40 points at a time.

* When you have the topic defined and clearly articulated, prepare a catchy introduction. This can involve a personal experience, relevant quotation or a humorous quip. It is important that your introduction grab the attention of your audience and make them want to hear more from you.

* Now identify and list your six main points. I like to write them in point form as I just need them to jog my memory. I have no intention of reading them to the audience.

* It's now time to go to my story and humor files to select a few items to help get my key points across. Stories are important in public speaking as people seem to be able to recall stories more readily than they can general information. For this reason I sprinkle my presentations with liberal doses of story and humor.

* When you have finished listing your main points and connecting the stories and humor to each one, write a reminder to recap your material for your audience before concluding your presentation. The old rule in public speaking that says "Tell your audience and then tell your audience what you just told them." is still a rule worth following. Make certain that the recap is very brief. You don't want to give the presentation over again.

* Now conclude your speech with a couple of lines from a poem, share a quote or a quip or just offer a few words of encouragement or affirmation. I also like to thank my audience, tell them how much I enjoyed being with them. and say that I look forward to meeting some of them after my talk.

I find that when I discipline myself to follow this outline I am more inclined to stay on topic, avoid becoming scattered and I am more present and connected to my audience. It also gives me the feeling of having given a power packed, well organized presentation that will be easily remembered long after I leave the building.
About the Author
Mike Moore is an international speaker on the role of humor in human relations.

For more information on public speaking for profit and pleasure visit http://motivationalplus.com/cgi/a/t.cgi?speakbiz
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