Spark More Conversations to Become a Better Speaker – Podcast 28

Engaged AudienceYou take to the podium and start to speak. Your audience appears to be paying rapt attention to the pearls of wisdom you share and to hear every word you say.

How would this make you feel – happy, relaxed, maybe even a bit more confident?

Might thoughts of “Result!” or “This is going well” cross your mind?

Positive as this situation may be, here’s a caution you should probably consider:

While many people can and will learn from passive, one-way communication…

…More will walk away less informed and convinced than they could be where they don’t feel truly ‘involved’ in proceedings.

Now, let’s be clear. When I mention involvement here, I am not referring to the nonsensical shenanigans of asking audience members to “stand up, sit down, high five the person behind you, tell your neighbour what kind of animal you’d like to be in another universe, etc.”.

Those are simply sources of distraction or even annoyance for your average audience and will add little or nothing to the meaning taken away from any given talk.

Rather your goal is to connect with audiences via conversations that encourage them, of their own volition, to see why your ideas have application to them on a personal level and to feel these are worth heeding.

And with that in mind, I’m delighted to introduce you to social media consultant and director of QED Training Noel Davidson – who shares a plethora of ideas with you today about what it takes to up your engagement levels with most any audience you address.

9 Secrets to Upping Your Audience Engagement Through Conversations

Listen is as we discuss:

  • Why conversation is a mission critical objective every time you speak
  • 3 Lessons every speaker can learn from Apple thinking
  • How to deal with audiences than include people with vast differences in knowledge or experience on the topic you’ll address
  • Why keeping track of body language within your audience pays
  • How to decide what involvement tools you should use and when
  • What it takes to re-energise a room if audience energy is low (especially when you’re asked to speak during a ‘graveyard shift’)
  • No go techniques you should avoid
  • Why humour or entertainment should be part of your thinking
  • The power of call backs
  • Why it’s more important for a speaker to be a conductor than a performer
  • And more

Over to You

What are your favourite methods for upping your audience engagement?

Please share your comments, observations, or questions.

FREE EBOOK - 7 Secrets to Public Speaking Success


Interview Transcript

Eamonn: Today, we’re going to be talking about the power and the importance of interaction with your audiences, both before and after events.

And I’m delighted to welcome Noel Davidson.

Noel, you and I know each other of old, of course. And you’re a social media consultant, a speaker, a trainer. And the one thing that has struck me consistently about watching you and your style of speaking is your effervescence, your enthusiasm, and your engagement. And that’s really what I want to talk about today.

Why is that engagement so important to you?

Noel: Without it, you lose the audience. And that’s the reason. So I’m all about the transfer of learning. And there has to be a certain level of engagement for that to happen. As soon as somebody tunes out, you’ve lost them. The ability to transfer knowledge, to get across the purpose of why you’re there is to transfer that knowledge or training.

So there has to be a little bit of element of entertainment, and very much so. I was lucky enough to be Apple-trained. And Apple have a whole philosophy of how you transfer learning.

And it comes down to three things. They say you can tell somebody something and they’ll only remember a very small part of it, they reckon between 8 or 9%. You can show somebody something and they’re only going to remember 15 to 18% of that. But you evolve them and involve them, they’ll remember a whole lot more.

So if you notice, if you ever go into an Apple store, the sales person demonstrating the product will never really touch it. They’ll let you touch it. They’ll stand and pass direction to you and you’re becoming involved in the product itself. And they’re beautiful products, obviously. They want you to touch them.

But they want to take the fear out of it. They recognize that’s one of the problems with their actual offering is they’re computers, it’s tech. Somebody may not have used the product before. And it’s fear. And so the way to do that is involve them and get them do it themselves. It takes the fear away.

So when we’re training, we’re doing that exact same thing. And we have to remember that in the audience, you have different levels of knowledge. There could be somebody who knows far more about the subject matter than you actually do. And you’ve got to acknowledge that.

Eamonn: And that actually brings up a big question, doesn’t it? Because what happens when you have many different levels within an audience because you want them all involved. So how do you take that?

Noel: The very first thing I ever learned was to get people to introduce themselves. So I’ve often done it with 120 people in the room. It can take a long time. When I say a long time, 15, 20 minutes, we control the pace of it.

But that gives you a flavor of who’s in the room. It also gives you a flavor of the ability. They are majority involved in what you’re doing, that you’re not talking to them or at them. You’re engaging them in the day.

And then actually, you set the platform. It’s not too bad. And you will always pick out one or two candidates for later engagement, where you can actually use them as examples and bring them in.

But I’m constantly scanning the room aim. I would be pretty good with body language. I’m constantly watching for somebody who’s becoming disengaged. And then you ask them a question or you bring them back in.

Eamonn: Asking a question would certainly be one way to bring people back in. And do you have favorite involvement tools? Things that you do?

Noel: I do. I don’t use podiums, never did. If there’s one there, I’ll stand to the left of it or in front of it. And I don’t use hand mics. I use roaming mics, whether it be a pendant or a collar mic or a neck mic, because I roam. And that’s the easiest way. You can actually work the room much easier. If it’s a large room, you need a microphone. If there isn’t a need for a microphone, I don’t use one at all.

But my favorite technique is to actually roam the room and look the person in the eye and ask them a question like “Do you agree with that?”, “Do you disagree?”, or “What do you think?” And as a trainer, my probably most used phrase lately is “Does that make sense?”.

I’m always asking, “How are we doing here? Is this making sense?”

And you’re encouraging people to engage back, to say, “I’m sorry, I don’t understand that.”

And there’s no shame in that whatsoever. Transferring knowledge is an art, and none of us are perfect at it. But if we keep people engaged, we have half a chance of transferring the knowledge.

Eamonn: You’re absolutely right. In fact, I think when we were talking most recently, we were talking about the experience. So what do people actually walk away with…”I’ve been there, now, what did I take from that?”

Noel: Yeah, you know, it’s extraordinary and I’ll add one of my own theories into this. People won’t remember most of what you say. They’ll remember how you made them feel.

Eamonn: I like that phrase.

Noel: That’s so true. There has to be a bit of entertainment. And so I would structure things throughout the day, especially if it’s a long day. We have the graveyard shift, as we call it, straight after lunch. So there has to be a bit of a video content, gives me a break from speaking.

But I would use media as much as possible and live interactions with people in the audience, video to demonstrate what we’re doing. And just keep a bit of an entertainment level to it.

Eamonn: So that’s entertainment, and that’s absolutely right. But are there things now, for example, that you won’t do? Things that you’ve learned over the years, oh, that’s probably not a good idea.

Noel: Yeah, I’m very selective about the appearance of picking on somebody. It’s so easy that you found a perfect candidate, but you keep referring to them all the time. You got to spread the love really throughout the room. You cannot leave one area of that room neglected.

And it’s so easy to find myself into a comfort zone,where you’ve got one or two participants that are easy to use throughout the day. You cannot do that. You’ve got to involve everybody including the difficult people that you know are just going to be difficult, that the subject matter doesn’t agree them, or they think they know it all. And that’s fine, that’s okay. But I would never ignore them. And I never assume anything ever. If you spell out assume, it makes and an ass of you and me. It’s so true.

Eamonn: That’s 100% true.

Noel: As a trainer, everybody has a story to tell. And every participant has a story to tell. And I want to hear those stories, I want to engage them during the day. You bring them on your journey. Everyone has a story, we need to hear it.

Eamonn: And if you were giving people maybe one or two tips on things that would really make a difference to how well they engage with an audience, what would they be?

Noel: Humor, absolutely humor is number one. But you have to be self-deprecating a little bit. And with that, it can never be about yourself. People hate you quoting facts and figures about yourself and how good you are. You don’t have to justify that. You justify that by engaging with your audience and your participants.

And the easy way to do that is humor. That self-depreciation is a lovely thing and it’s always something that I fall back on. And you bring people, you get a laugh and a giggle. And that’s really important.

People need to enjoy the day. And you make that enjoyable. You make it engaging. And there will be automatically a transfer of learning.

Eamonn: And now, of course, you have a transfer of learning, but of course, you want to make sure that messages get put into action. Would there be one or two ideas that you have that maybe can make sure that conversation and those thoughts continue after you’ve stepped away from the podium?

Noel: Very much so. The story start really in the session where I will tell them the items that we’re going to do and we do them. Then I would do a recap, and now we did items one to six. And now, what we’d like you to do, as you leave this session, is one, two, three, four.

You’ve got to have a program. And there has to be a format to it in the module, and you’ve got to constantly remind what you’re trying to achieve, but in a very casual way. Repetition is a great way of getting things across. And throughout the day, that story has to continue and stay on track.

And we would finish by saying now our action points for today are, as we said this morning, you should try this. Or try this when you go home. Or here’s a video that we showed you, you might have look at this when you’re thinking about the next time you’re doing this.

Eamonn: Which makes a ton of sense. And tell me just to round out then, if there was one thing that you know now that you wish you had known when you started in this game, what would it be?

Noel: It’s not all about me. I remember thinking, when you would stand up for the very first time, I felt the spotlight was on me. It was up to me to perform. It’s extraordinary when you transfer it back to your audience, that you’re there as a conductor.

And what you’re really doing is conducting the instruments of the audience which are the people participating. And you’re getting them involved in the whole music, of the whole music-making of the day, if you think of it like that. And that would be one thing to look back at now, to be self-deprecating and not all about me. Don’t be afraid to take the spotlight off.

Eamonn: Your audience are the only ones who can play the notes anyway.

Noel: That’s exactly it. That’s it. And you’re there as a conductor to get the best notes out. So that would be the number one thing. Don’t think that spotlight’s on you, it’s not. Transfer the spotlight back onto your audience and the sessions are much easier.

Eamonn: Wonderful, well, that’s a wonderful note on which to end. So thank you indeed, Noel, for coming in today. And thank you for watching and listening. This has been Eamonn O’Brien and you have been listening to Reluctant Speakers Club Experts Series.  And until the next time, happy speaking.


Photo Credit: Michael L. Davenport


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