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    Sweet Dreams Lead to Sweeter Speeches

    "Did you get a good night's sleep the night prior?" This is the first question I ask students and clients when they tell me they bombed their most recent presentation. The response I most often get is "absolutely not!" If recent research is correct, this lack of sleep could be a big contributor to these speakers not doing well. Sleep helps presenters in three principal ways: Reduces anxiety Research from Binghamton University found that people who sleep for short durations or have interrupted sleep tend to be more anxious and have their anxiety amplified. With today's busy life styles and frequent time zone travel, it can be challenging to get sustained, high quality sleep, but this research suggests that it is well worth it. Helps with memory Sleep researchers have now concluded that one of the most important aspects of sleep is to consolidate memories. You are much more likely to recall information if you are well rested from a good night's sleep than if you stay up all night trying to memorize your points. The night before you speak, review your outline and practice your presentation once or twice, then put it away and get some "shut eye." Rely on your brain's natural processes to help your message stick. Empowers grit Getting a good night sleep allows you to better cope with any speaking anxiety symptoms or unexpected activities. Being rested gives you more capacity to engage in contingency thinking, which is the spontaneous thought processes required to adjust "on the fly" to challenges that confront you. Rather than stay up all night and worry about what might go wrong, you should sleep and awake knowing you will have the mental fortitude to handle what confronts you. Good sleep hygiene provides the best way to benefit from the power of sleep prior to presenting. Behaviors such as those below will help you feel more relaxed, remember more, and be able to handle what comes your way.
    • - Go to bed around the same time every night and wake up at the same time as well.
    • - Avoid bright lights and screens 30-45 minutes before going to bed.
    • - Stop drinking caffeinated and alcoholic beverages too close to bedtime.
    • - Enjoy some quiet time by yourself or with a loved one before lying down to sleep (e.g., do yoga, read a book, meditation, etc.).
    When it comes to presenting well, rather than pull an all-nighter, get some well-deserved sleep. Your audience will thank you!

      Friends and Framing Can Reduce Presentation Anxiety

      The past month or so has proved insightful for those interested in managing speaking anxiety. To begin, Chapman University asked American’s what they fear most in their daily lives. Positioned among concern over a random terrorist attack and identity theft, fear of public speaking ranked among the top five. Thankfully, two recent research studies provide insight into ways we can reduce our speaking anxiety. Both involve what you think about prior to presenting. Research conducted by Dr. Anke Karl of Psychology at the University of Exeter and published in the journal Social, Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience found that when subjects viewed images of people receiving support and affection their fear response was reduced. Soothing activity appears to calm the amygdala’s (the emotional center of the brain) activity. Further, it appears that the brain may function more effectively after viewing soothing behavior. Prior to presenting, you can envision receiving support from you audience or from those you will associate with after your presentation. Additionally, you can reflect on the importance of those you love. This type of visualization with should help blunt your anxiety response. This technique pairs nicely with the well-established anxiety management technique of interacting with your audience prior to speaking. By meeting and greeting members of your audience, you connect with them and thereby reduce your nervousness. Dr. Vikram Chib’s research at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine points to another avenue for managing your speaking anxiety. He found that a person’s level of loss aversion – fear of negative consequences, such as losing one’s status or not achieving one’s goals – affected the likelihood that they would choke under pressure. Specifically, research participants with high loss aversion choked when told they stood to gain a lot, while those participants with low loss aversion choked under the pressure of large prospective losses. What this means for you as a presenter is counter-intuitive. Specifically, after reflecting on how concerned you are for the potential negative outcomes of your presentation (e.g., your risk aversion), you shoul reframe your speaking situation in one of two ways: - If you have great concern over your potential negative consequences, then you should avoid thinking of all the things you have to gain if you do a good job. - If you have little concern over your potential negative consequences, then you should avoid thinking of all the things you have to lose if you do a poor job. Taken together, the research presented here serves to empower you to address one of our most significant fears by providing you with action you can undertake prior to speaking to reduce your anxiety and likelihood of choking under pressure.  

        The Secret to Handling Those Awkward Speaking Moments

        A lecturer at Stanford Graduate School of Business explains how you can navigate tricky communication situations. By Matt Abrahams

        When you are giving a public presentation, don't you hate it when you face … the dreaded question. You know the one: the emotionally loaded challenge that serves to undermine everything you presented prior. You had hoped you wouldn't get it, but here it is. Or, you may face ... the obnoxious meeting participant. You know this guy: He thinks he's Mr. Smarty-Pants and wants everyone to know it. He ruins your meeting by going on long rants that contribute little and waste much.

        These two situations can make even the most confident and calm speaker nervous. One powerful way to navigate your way through these two tricky communication situations is to rely on paraphrasing.

        Paraphrasing is a listening and reflecting tool where you restate what others say in your own words. The most effective paraphrases concisely capture the essence of what another speaker says. For example, at the end of your presentation a questioner asks: "In the past you have been slow to release new products. How soon will your new product be available?" You might paraphrase her question in one of the following ways:

        "You're asking about our availability."

        "You'd like to know about our release schedule."

        "Our release timeline will be … "

        Effective paraphrasing affords you several benefits. In Q&A sessions, for instance, it allows you to:

        Make sure you understood the question correctly. After your paraphrase, the question asker has the opportunity to correct you or refine his or her question. There is no sense in answering a question you were not asked.

        Think before you respond. Paraphrasing is not very mentally taxing, so while you are speaking your paraphrase you can begin to think of your response.

        Acknowledge emotions prior to addressing the issue(s). Occasionally, you may find yourself confronted with an emotionally laden question. In order to be seen as empathetic, and to get the asker to "hear" your answer, you should recognize the emotion as part of your paraphrase. To a questioner who asks, "I get really exasperated when I try to use some of your features. How are you going to make it easier to use your product?" you might say: "I hear that you have emotion around the complexity of our offering."

        By acknowledging the emotion, you can more easily move beyond it to address the issue at hand. Please note that you should avoid labeling the emotion, even if the asker does. If someone seems angry, it is better to use terms such as "strong emotion," "clear concern," and "passion." I have seen a number of speakers get into a labeling battle with an audience member when the speaker names a specific emotion that the asker took offense to (e.g., saying an audience member seems frustrated when he is actually angry).

        Reframe the question to focus on something you feel more comfortable addressing. I am not recommending pulling a politician's trick and pivoting to answer the question you wanted rather than the one you got. Instead, by paraphrasing, you can make the question more comfortable for you to answer. The most striking example I have come across was in a sales situation where a prospect asked the presenter: "How come your prices are ridiculous expensive?" Clearly, the paraphrase "So you're asking about our ridiculous pricing" is not the way to go. Rather, you can reframe the issue in your paraphrase to be about a topic you are better prepared to address. For example, "So you'd like to know about our product's value." Price is clearly part of value, but you start by describing the value and return on investment, which will likely soften the blow of the price.

        Using paraphrases can also help you in facilitation situations, such as a meeting. In meetings, paraphrasing allows you to:

        Acknowledge the participant's effort. For many people, contributing in meetings can be daunting. There are real consequences for misspeaking or sounding unprepared. By paraphrasing the contributions you get from others, you validate the person's effort by signaling that you really listened and valued their input.

        Link various questions/ideas. You can pull together disparate contributions and questions and engage different participants by relating a current statement to previous ones. For example, you might say: "Your comment about our profitability links to the question a few minutes ago about our financial outlook."

        Manage over-contributors. Someone who over-shares or dominates a meeting with his or her opinions can be very disruptive and disrespectful. If it is your meeting, then the other participants will expect you to manage the situation. If you don't, you will lose control and potentially credibility. Paraphrasing can help you move beyond the over-contributor while looking tactful. Fortunately, even the most loquacious person needs to inhale once in a while. During a pause, simply paraphrase a meaningful portion of the person's diatribe and place focus elsewhere -; to another person or topic. For example, you might say, "Forrest's point about manufacturing delays is a good one. Laurie, what do you think?" Or, "Forrest's point about manufacturing delays is a good one. What other issues are affecting our release schedule?" In both cases, you have politely informed Forrest that he is done, and you've turned the focus away from him and back to your agenda.

        Beginning a paraphrase can sometimes be tricky, and people often ask me for suggestions for ways to initiate their paraphrases. Try one of the following lines to help you start your paraphrase:

        "So what you are saying/asking is … "

        "What is important to you is … "

        "You’d like to know more about … "

        "The central idea of your question/comment is … "

        Paraphrasing has the power to help you connect with your audience, manage emotions, and steer the conversation. And once you begin to use the technique, you will realize it has the power to help you not only in presentations and meetings, but in virtually any interpersonal conversation.

          Help Your Kids (and Yourself) Deliver Great Presentations!

          What an auspicious occasion! In my twenty plus year career as a communication professor and presentation coach, I have never presented in front of such an accomplished and famous audience. Before me were 75 of the most influential Americans I could imagine…I was introduced by Jackie Robinson. To my right sat Benjamin Franklin. Across from Mr. Franklin were Harriet Tubman and Susan B. Anthony. To their left were John F. Kennedy and Mark Twain. No, I was not part of a strange sequel to “Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure. “ Rather, these historical titans were elementary school kids a week away from that familiar right of passage -- delivering their Famous American presentations. Soon, these children would be enlightening their friends, families, and teachers about the biographies of their famous Americans. Their teachers invited me to their classes to offer advice to these kids on how to present more confidently and constructively. They had grown tired of having their students simply read or recite their presentations. Rather, these teachers wanted to see some engaging, conversational speeches. Since my son was among my audience –- he was George Washington is you’re curious -- I had a pretty good idea of the issues and concerns these teachers had. In what follows, I hope to provide parents and teachers with specific tips and advice they can pass along to their elementary and middle school children to help these kids to become more authentic, compelling communicators. While the parents of most of these kids had countless encounters with good and bad presenters, the students before me had few. To help my audience appreciate their goal, I related presenting to teaching -- something these students had several years of experience with. I asked, “What do good teachers do to help their students learn?” I received answers such as: “Good teachers give lots of examples that I understand.” “Teachers help me learn by repeating what they say.” “They really use their voice and arms to make it interesting.” “I like when my teachers stick to an agenda.” “My teacher clearly knew what she was saying and how to say it.” Astonishingly, these eight year olds clearly identified the very topics that I address with my MBA students and the executives I coach. They noted the importance of structure and support, delivery, and practice. By seeing their presenting job as teaching, my young orators realized that they needed to engage their audience to help them learn and pay attention. To help with their teaching goal, I introduced them to two useful acronyms. 1. Have a B.L.A.S.T. Breathe deeply before speaking to help the jitters go away. Look at your audience so you can tell if they are interested in what you are saying. Attend to your stance by placing your feet forward directly under your shoulders. Speak loudly and clearly so people in the back of the room can hear you. Talk with your hands to describe what you are saying. This first acronym focuses on presentation delivery – how you say what you say. Many nervous and novice speakers manifest presenting behaviors that distract their audience from the core message of the speech (e.g., rushed speaking rate, disfluencies, spurious movement, etc.). No audience member likes to witness a nervous speaker. The speaker’s anxiety behaviors make it hard to pay attention to the speaker’s content. By invoking presentation behaviors, such as sustaining eye contact, standing balanced, speaking loudly, and gesturing in a descriptive manner, presenters – adults and children alike – can appear more confident. In my book Speaking Up without Freaking Out, I call this approach to presentation delivery “fake it until you make it.” By acting confidently (regardless of how you really feel), your audience will see you as confident and treat you as such. In turn, you will begin to feel more confident because of your audience’s positive response. When working with children on speech delivery, I have found it best to focus on how their behavior (e.g., reading from their note cards) affects their “students,” rather than comment on their specific behavior. In other words, I have found success comes from asking, “How do you think your students will feel if they see you reading your material?” Rather than commenting: “You don’t make eye contact.” 2. Provide a M.A.P. for your listeners. Memorize key points not your whole talk, which allows you to have a conversation. Anticipate questions and think of answers before your present. Provide a list of your points so your audience knows what you will be telling them. This second acronym focuses on the presentation’s content – what you say. The key here is to create an outline of your content with the main points defined. Encourage your child to memorize only these points, not everything he or she intends to say. A fully memorized speech sounds over-rehearsed and remote, rather than conversational and engaging. This is hard for students, but only memorizing key ideas will be very helpful to them in the future. You can help them by asking them to provide slightly different versions of the support they use for their memorized key points. For example, you can ask them to first share a story and then next time they practice give only a quote or some relevant facts. Like grown up presentations, kids will often be asked questions when they finish speaking. This can be very nerve-wracking because you often don't know what will be asked. Challenge your child to think of potential questions audience members may ask prior to having them draft the presentation. In this way, your child can include the answers to the questions in the presentation, or he or she can practice answers to likely questions as part of their preparation. Like a good teacher, presenters need to set expectations for what they are going to say. Ask your child about a recent class art project. Specifically, inquire about the instructions that the teacher gave. My hunch is that the teacher clearly previewed all of the steps involved in the project and this structure helped the student to complete the art project successfully…without too much fuss and mess. People of all ages intuitively know that structured information helps both presenters and audiences remember the content. Research suggests we remember structured information up to 40% better. You need only think about how you remember 10-digit phone numbers via a structure of chunked numbers 3-3-4 to appreciate how structure helps. Armed with the idea of having a BLAST by using a MAP, kids can be more successful when presenting. With these two acronyms in mind, my students practiced their presentations with the energy and enthusiasm befitting the personas they were representing. A week later, after witnessing their confident, compelling presentations, I came to realize that in not too many more years when these kids will be the age of my current college students…I may be out of a job!

            Three Apps Every Presenter Should Have

            As I prepare to offer a new class on effective virtual communication, I have been exploring tools that can help presenters be successful. Recently, I came across three very useful apps that every presenter should consider using. Below, I list the three applications and briefly describe what they do and why I find them valuable. All of these apps are available through Apple’s App Store. Timer with Sections Most presentations come with strict time requirements. Even the most engaging speaker can alienate her audience if she presents beyond her allocated time. This app is very useful in helping you meet your allotted time. For me, the two best features of this app are: (1) You can set timings for specific parts of your presentation (e.g., 3 minutes for the introduction, 7 minutes for the body of the speech, and 2 minutes for your conclusion) so that you can train yourself not to go long in the beginning and then have to rush at the end. (2) You can set the timer to vibrate so you can get “back pocket” notification while speaking. This helps your presentation stay on time. Breathing Zone Deep breathing is the best method for reducing many of the fight or flight symptoms that nervous and novice presenters experience, such as increased heart rate, sweating, and shaking. This doctor recommended app guides you through specific techniques to ensure long and deep breathing. Not only does deep breathing help you reduce anxiety symptoms, but it can help you support your voice by giving you the breath you need to sustain your vocal variety. Prompt Smart Early in the practicing process, you can benefit from referring to your outline to make sure you are following your intended structure. But keeping track of where you are in what you are saying and where you are on your outline can be very challenging. This app helps you by advancing your notes as you speak. Think of it as an intelligent teleprompter that syncs what it shows you based on your verbal pacing. While I strongly discourage reading or memorizing complete manuscripts, I do highly recommend practicing from outlines or notes. This app makes this part of the preparation process easier. Taken individually or together, these three apps can help you in your quest to become a more authentic and engaging speaker. I would be remiss if I did not put in a plug for the Gainful app, which offers useful content designed to help you learn specific skills in a reasonable timeframe. Gainful partnered with me to create content designed to help presenters be more confident.

              Audience Connection Matters: What I learned at the US Conference on AIDS

              Recently, I provided some presentation coaching to the keynote speakers for this year’s US Conference on AIDS. I really treasured the experience and learned a lot from it. Both presenters were amazing people who do amazing work -- work that truly is making a difference in the fight against HIV/AIDS. The task before them was a challenging one. Many of their 2,000+ person audience are tired and weary. These front-line responders to the HIV/AIDS epidemic are constantly fighting for resources, struggling with bureaucracy, and challenged by the very patients they serve. The keynote speakers were tasked with not only motivating their audience, but also encouraging them to seek different approaches and new paths.

              The keynote speakers did a very nice job writing presentations that addressed the USCA’s goal. However, the one part that was lacking in their drafts was the connection of their messages to their audience. They had lots of facts, statistics, and stories, but limited involvement with their audience. This type of connection is key when trying to move and motivate an audience. The three connecting techniques I suggested were to:

              • Ask your audience to do something. You can have them physically act by asking them to respond to a polling question or provide a comment. These actions require focus and involvement, which reduces passivity. Additionally, you can have them mentally do something by asking them to “imagine,” “remember back,” or “picture this.” Since your audience is seeing something in their mind’s eye, rather than just listening to you describe it, they become more engaged and your point becomes more vivid and lasting for them.
                One of the keynote presenters asked his audience to remember back to 1986 when AIDS first became nationally recognized.
              • Use analogies. By comparing new information to something your audience is already familiar with, analogies activate the audience’s existing mental constructs, which allows for quicker information processing, better understanding, and greater interest in the topic being presented.
                The other presenter compared the lessons she learned while practicing medicine in Swaziland to those her patients today are teaching her.
              • Focus on the relevance of your topic for your audience. This is possibly the most important audience connecting technique.  Be sure to spend time detailing the specific links between your topic and your audience’s lives. For example, one of the speakers commented: “As I am sure you all see in your clinics everyday.” Relevancy is the best antidote for apathy, and it brings with it a high level of participation.
                By employing these connecting techniques along with incredible authentic delivery, these USCA keynote presenters were able to move their audience – some to tears, but all to a standing ovation. When your topic matters to you and your audience, you must be sure to connect your message to them.

                The Secret to Rocking Your Next Presentation

                Published in Of all the tools and techniques a speaker can use to make a presentation more effective, the simple question is the most versatile. Think of it as the Swiss Army Knife of presenting. A well-timed question can accomplish a myriad of communication tasks, from building intrigue to fostering audience engagement, helping you remember what to say, and even calming your speaking anxiety. Leverage questions, and you can become a more compelling and confident presenter. Here's how: Questions Connect with the Audience Audience connection is the key characteristic that distinguishes a memorable presenter from an average one. Are audience members participating with the speaker, or simply listening to the speaker? Questions provide a great way to foster engagement. Questions by their very nature are dialogic. They're two-way: You ask and your audience responds. I recommend using three types of questions throughout your presentation to get your audience's attention: Rhetorical questions build intrigue. Asking your audience a question for effect (rather than one you expect them to actually answer) prompts them to think about the issue. Example: "Would you believe that companies are making robotic honeybees to pollinate crops in locales where bees are dying off?" Polling questions make the audience part of your point. When asking your audience to respond to your query, be sure to signal how you want them to do so (e.g., model raising your hand as you ask your question, or explain how the online poll works if you are virtually presenting) and comment briefly on the response you get (e.g., "Just as I expected, about 50% of you … "). Example: "How many of you have ever been stung by a honeybee?" "What if?" questions root your presentation in time. Inquire about a possible future or the historical past; and as with rhetorical questions, you may not expect a literal response, but you definitely focus your audience’s attention on the time period you’re describing. Example: "What would it be like if all crops were pollinated by robo-honeybees?" Or, "Remember when modern science made it possible for genetically modified vegetables to yield more crops?" Questions Build Your Confidence Many speakers are anxious because they feel they are under the harsh spotlight of an audience who is constantly evaluating them. But, interestingly, incorporating questions from the moment you start planning can help you feel more confident about every aspect of presenting. Here are two ways to use questions in planning to improve your delivery: Ask yourself, "What does my audience need to hear from me?" Instead of seeing speaking as a performance, think of it as being in service of your audience's needs--this shifts the attention away from you and onto your audience. The most useful way I know to focus on your audience is to start by asking yourself the simple question: "What does my audience need to hear from me?" This not only helps you tailor your message to your audience, but it also reminds you that they are the ones in the spotlight. Make this question your mantra as you prepare and practice your presentations. Outline your talk using questions. When writing your next outline, create a list of questions to serve as prompts for what you intend to say. I loathe speaking manuscripts and full-text speaker notes, which only invite memorization and actually increase performance anxiety. An outline, on the other hand, is a very practical tool to help speakers prepare and deliver. And the power of a question-based outline is twofold: First, it allows you to feel more confident because you know the answers to your questions--you no longer need to worry you might not know what to say. Second, you will be more conversational, since you are simply answering your audience's unasked questions, and conversational delivery is often better remembered by audiences. When you next face preparing for and delivering a presentation, consider using the MacGyver of communication tools, the question. For just about any task at hand, it can yield all kinds of benefits for you and your audience. This piece was originally published by Stanford Business and is republished with permission. Follow GSB @StanfordBiz.

                  Passion and Immediacy: The Key Ingredients for Confident Speaking

                  Confidence is more than just managed anxiety. A confident speaker is passionate and immediate with his or her audience. Your audience feels your confidence, rather than sees it. They respond to it and respect it. Ultimately, it is your confidence that garners you credibility. Put passion into action Passion comes from the energy and enthusiasm that a speaker exudes as well as from the words used. When preparing and practicing your talk, be sure to reflect back on what excites you about your topic and how your audience will benefit. Reminding yourself of your motivation can help energize you (or reenergize you if you give your presentation over and over again). Additionally, seeing yourself as being in service of your audience – helping them to learn, grow, achieve – should also ignite your spirits. This energy should manifest itself in how you relay your information. By no means am I implying you have to be a cheerleader for your message, you need to find a method for relaying your conviction that is authentic and meaningful for you. But, your audience wants and needs to feel the “fire in your belly.” Tactically, choose wording that is emotive and audience directed. This will help you reveal your passion. Words such as “benefits”, “outcomes,” and “change” move audiences. Include adjectives to further excite and motivate. Most importantly speak these words in an emotive way that reflects your inner feelings and remains true to both your way of being in the world and the tone of your presentation. Be warmly immediately Immediacy is a term coined in the late 1960’s by psychology professor Albert Meharabian to represent the many verbal and nonverbal behaviors people express to build emotional connection. Nervous and novice speakers tend to retreat physically and emotionally when presenting: They step back away from the audience while drawing their arms across their chests and hunching over. They hide behind a lectern. Their language is more formal, such as “one must consider.” Contrast this to speakers who communicate in an immediate fashion by holding an open, balanced posture and using language that is conversational and inclusive, such as “you should know or we all need to...” Research has shown that leaders and presenters who communicate in an immediate way are more effective and better liked. Building on the immediacy work started decades ago, current researchers, such as popular TED presenter and Harvard Business School Professor Amy Cuddy, have shown that warmth is also a key trait of successful presenters. Warmth can be thought of as operationalized empathy. It is a combination of understanding your audience’s needs and displaying that understanding through your actions. Warm presenters acknowledge their audience’s needs by verbally echoing them (e.g., “Like you, I once…”). Further, they maintain an engaged posture, leaning forward and moving towards people who asked questions. By conveying your passion in an immediate way, you demonstrate your confidence. You show your audience that you are authentic in your intent and committed to your message.

                    When it comes to knowing your audience, reconnaissance is key

                    “Know your audience” is a key mantra of people who do what I do for a living. Communication professors and coaches know that value of having presenters reflect on the needs of their audience, and we challenge those we teach and coach to target their message so that they meet these needs. Unfortunately, after learning about the need to deliver a presentation, most speakers start by thinking “here’s what I need to tell my audience.” And then they proceed to develop and ultimately deliver their thoughts and ideas. I’d like to suggest that this approach often leaves your audience unfulfilled and lacking in key concepts. For when you prepare a presentation from your perspective, you likely pass over critical bits of information and fail to pull your audience into the content. Others label this self-focused approach “the curse of knowledge.” Simply put, you often know too much about what you present. A better, more thorough approach would be to begin by asking the question: What does my audience need to hear? While this approach initially sounds similar to “here’s what I need to tell my audience,” the difference is more than verbal jujitsu. By embracing an audience-focused approach, you will not only engage your audience more – since you’re giving them what they need, but you will present content that scaffolds their knowledge so that they can truly appreciate and understand your message. This audience-centric approach requires you to truly know your audience. Thus, it really boils down to conducting detailed reconnaissance. You need to spend time figuring out exactly who your audience is and what value you can provide to them. Ask yourself the following three questions to help you better determine your audience’s needs and then adjust your content to best suit these needs: (1) What knowledge and/or past experience(s) have my audience had with my topic? If your audience knows about your topic, you can begin at a much different place than if they are new to it. Often, you have an audience whose knowledge of your topic varies. In this case, start by notifying your audience that you will take a few minutes at the beginning of your presentation to scaffold the knowledge of those less “in the know” and then you will continue. This approach motivates the neophytes and prepares the more knowing members of your audience that their turn will be coming soon. (2) What attitudes and emotions is my audience likely to have toward my topic? Supportive and excited audiences afford you the opportunity to dive right in and share your thoughts. However, hesitant and resistant audiences require more care be spent initially to reduce their defensiveness. Rather than jump right into your arguments supporting your viewpoint, the best way to start with a skeptical audience is to acknowledge common ground. For example, it is often the case that resistant audiences agree with the overarching goal you are trying to achieve, but disagree on your means. By emphasizing the common goal or benefits, you can convert naysayers or at least make them more willing to listen. (3) How proximal am I too my audience in terms of organizational status and influence? The closer you are to your audience in terms of organizational status (e.g., you are their direct manager), the more concrete your message should be. Similarly, the more remote you are from your audience members (e.g., C-level presenting to line employees), the more abstract your content should be. Audiences prefer specifics when the presenter has more direct influence over them in day-to-day activities. If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to relay details (e.g., deliverables, deadlines, etc.) that are tied to individuals in your audience. Your ultimate job as a presenter is to be in service of your audience. The only way you can achieve this goal is to understand your audience’s needs. By asking the three questions mentioned above and doing recon to figure out the answers, you will be able to better tailor your message to address your specific audience so they benefit more. Click here to see my video discussing audience analysis that is posted on my YouTube Channel.