Presenter: Steve Hughes, founder and President of Hit Your Stride, LLC
"Any questions?" We've all said it when making a presentation or teaching a class - but how often do questions actually follow? Rather than asking an audience a question they can easily just say no to, try replacing the open-ended query with a more specific one, like, "What questions do you have about using secondary sources to find primary sources of law?" This was just one of the many simple, but effective tips Steve Hughes shared in this fascinating presentation, Own the Room: Presentations That Captivate and Win Over Any Audience, which was actually Part II of his presentation at last year's meeting in Seattle.
For those who were unable to attend Part I, Steve briefly recapped his method for getting an audience engaged. Rather than wasting time at the beginning of a presentation with introductions and a roadmap of where the presentation is headed, Steve suggests opening big - capture the crowd's attention first with a surprising statistic, picture or video, story or real-life example, or even a thought-provoking question or quote. Once they are hooked, keep them engaged throughout, asking questions and focusing your attention on one audience member at a time.
Steve expanded on these concepts for this year's presentation. Participants teamed up to practice the elimination of the dreaded space-fillers, "um" and "ah," by speaking in phrases and "embracing the pause" as we were relating a story to our partners. Steve also demonstrated the effectiveness of using physical movements while presenting, rather than stifling natural gestures, as many of us believe we should. This movement, he pointed out, boosts volume and increases inflection while also increasing visual interest. Movement also has the added benefit of reducing the nervous energy that often accompanies public speaking. He wrapped up his remarks with very concrete suggestions for fielding questions confidently. Listening carefully for the real issue in the question being asked, for example, ensures your answers demonstrate both that you were listening and transparency in your response. Steve also suggested preparing a few questions and answers in advance that you as the speaker can throw out and answer if your more specific request for questions yields no response.
As a teacher and frequent presenter, I found this session professionally relevant and helpful. I will certainly be implementing his tips and ideas in my upcoming presentations to first-year students to boost their interest and attention span. You can read more about Steve and see him in action at www.hityourstride.com.