Connecting With Your Audience
by Nan Balliot, Roger Williams University School of Law Library

The theme of the 95th AALL Annual Meeting and Conference held in Orlando, Florida was "Creating Connections." Of possible interest to LLNE News readers who do public speaking is the program "Connecting With Your Audience," presented on July 22, 2002. Ms. Sandra Yancey, President of the Yancey Consulting Group, was the speaker. Information about Ms. Yancey and the Yancey Consulting Group is available at http://www.hitinc.com/sandra.html

Ms. Yancey's basic premise is that presentation skills are learned. She provided tips and techniques for improving one's presentation skills and some "to do's" before, during and after your presentation in order to better connect with your audience. Her talk focused on four aspects of the presentation: preparing yourself, creating visual aids, handling the audience, and delivery.

Preparing yourself consists of deciding what are you going to say and how you are going to say it. Points you are going to illustrate and how best to illustrate them are part of your preparation. Part of your preparation is to anticipate the unexpected. To avoid glitches, she recommends you do the following before your presentation: review your audiovisual aids from the back of the room; practice using your AV equipment; confirm the location, date, time, and room number; buy a bottle of baby oil and cover your teeth to prevent cotton mouth; do facial stretches; and test your markers if you are writing on a flip chart and/or overheads. She recommends Mister Sketches brand and having two sets with you in case your marker runs dry during your presentation. Among other good tips, she suggests numbering your note cards or papers so that if you drop them, they are easy to reorganize! Finally, practice your presentation.

She talked about overcoming fear, which in her opinion is an acronym for "false evidence appearing real." Her strategies for calming one's fears are to keep it simple, know your topic, and display a positive attitude while you are speaking. She emphasized focusing on those things that give you strength and power and not on those things that make you nervous.

During your presentation, she advises using the space you have in the room by walking around the room as opposed to standing behind a podium during your entire presentation to keep the audience's attention. In order to maximize the audience's first impression of you, dress to create the favorable impression you desire, and dress to match or one-up the attire likely to be worn by your audience. Both silence and pregnant pauses are okay to use during your presentation when you use them to accentuate a point. While speaking, breathe and talk with a lowered voice. (Women with lowered voices have more leverage with men.)

Ms. Yancey spoke about the power of visual aids in the value that they can add to your presentation. According to Ms. Yancey, people generally remember 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, and 50% of what they hear and see. Visual aids can be handouts, flip charts, overheads, PowerPoint (which she thinks is overused), and you when you want to make a point. For overheads, she uses 54 type size font. You can distribute handouts during your presentation, giving you an opportunity to move about the room while continuing to speak, or enlist attendees to distribute handouts to get them involved in your presentation. Tips for using flip charts include dog earring the end so you know when you have reached your last page, leaving a blank piece between written pages so the written pages do not "bleed" through, and tapping the bottom of pages before you use the flip chart so the pages are easily tapped to another location.

Handling the audience consists of involving them in your presentation. Ms. Yancey discussed three audience types: the "prisoner" who does not want to be there, the "vacationer" who is present in body only, and the "sponge" who wants to be there. If possible, she suggests grouping the audience so that these various types can interact. If you have a "debater" in your audience, move closer to the person and try to involve him/her if possible.

For the dreaded "question to which you do not know the answer," Ms. Yancey suggested saying "Great question" and asking the audience if they have any ideas. She stressed the importance of not lying and of getting back to people to pursue the answer to a question.


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