First off: I am emphatically NOT suggesting we treat our audiences like pets. But learning from our relationships with our pets CAN help us become better speakers.
I spoke recently with a professional Animal Massage Therapist and adult educator. Together, we came up with the following five tips for improved public speaking.
1. You must meet their basic needs or they’ll die.
OK, so this is obvious and maybe even cruel to point out. However, this truth forms the foundation of effective presenting, even if your audience will only die metaphorically if you don’t meet their basic needs.
How do you figure out what those needs are? Analyze the four typical barriers for your specific audience below. Then, make sure your presentation addresses each barrier.
When you address these barriers, audience members will not only stay alive, they will THRIVE. (Thanks to Nancy Bacon for providing these four barriers to action.)
2. If you give them a treat, they will love you
This doesn’t suggest you throw Tootsie Rolls out to the crowd. (Personally, I find that a little TOO “animal trainer”- like.) But DO treat your audience with frequent breaks, humor, and meaningful interaction.
3. Talk too loudly, and they’ll run away. Talk too softly and they’ll ignore you.
Unlike your audience, pets lack the ability to pretend interest. They just tune you out! You must ensure that your voice and body movements truly engage your listeners.
4. Pets thrive on focused, energetic activity (followed by “robust resting”).
Picture your cat playing with a ball of string, or your dog with a squeaky toy. They invest their entire brains and bodies. Your responsibility as a presenter is to offer content that invites a similar level of investment. You can only do that by ensuring that the presentation is 100% relevant to your audience. (Then, be sure to follow that with a rest.)
5. Your relationship with your pet creates a mutual energy cycle, feeling great to you both.
You and your audience also form a reciprocal unit. When you do your best, they will return the favor.
ARF! Great Presentations Ahead
If you follow the five tips above, your audiences will remain attentive, energetic, focused, and connected. They may even reward you by licking your hand (just kidding)!