I’ve noticed that when I speak, I have my deepest focus on what I’m saying and trying to communicate, but that I pay substantial subsidiary attention to the audience’s reaction. If they don’t respond, it doesn’t matter how good my material is and my intentions are, I feel like I’m tanking. So, yesterday, when I presented, I automatically checked the audience’s reaction.
Before I fill you in on what happened, let me describe the set up. There was a big screen at the front of the third of the ballroom we had, in the middle. I project well, but I couldn’t be heard without a microphone. I was using a PowerPoint (because I suspected the wifi would fail. It did.) so I was tied to my laptop, especially since the remote that worked before and after the session didn’t work IN the session. My laptop was on a podium, on a platform on the audiences’ right at the front of the room.
Let me clarify, My podium was in line with the edge of the audience seats on one side, the screen was in the middle of this wide room, and the audience stretched out in a slight curving layout beyond the screen. There were only a few rows, but it stretched 20 feet, maybe more, across. My over 3 feet high platform had my podium on it and a six foot table, with at least another six feet across the floor to the screen, and, as I said, the audience ranged beyond that. It was the most bizarre set up for a speaker I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve been in some clumsy ones.
Then there was the beginning as the IT guy tried to make the wifi worked. I tried to speak while I was re-starting (wifi still didn’t work) and re-setting up myPowerPont program. Not smooth. Finally I started, only to be interrupted by audience members and coached on how to position my head so the mic would work. I kept on going, only somewhat daunted.
During my talks, I usually throw out little bits of humour to get a sense of the audience. I did this to the MagNet audience a few times, and nobody laughed. Whoops. I kept going, but noticed subliminally that I was feeling disconcerted. Looked out at the audience and noted that a substantial number were highly focussed on taking notes. Decided that must be a good sign, and, anyhow, the show had to go on.
I got several positive comments after I finished, but I won’t know until I get the formal feedback, what most of the audience thought.
When I present, I love having a slideshow to help me stay on point and keep me going when I talk! It’s a great security blanket when I don’t feel much resonance from the audience, and so it was yesterday. My PowerPoint was there when the wifi wasn’t, and when I felt worried about whether the audience was with me.
I have some observations, I hate under-designed, almost anti-speaker designed venues BUT I can survive them.
Finally, in lieu of handouts, I put my presentation up on SlideShare. This morning I received an email from them telling me it would be up in their News & Politics feature page for 16 to 20 hours, (News & Politics?!?) so that’s an audience reaction I can enjoy ;->