Presentation Skills – The Worst Audience

Have you ever been on an airplane seated in the window seat and have to get up to use the bathroom? You know what’s coming, you have to crawl over the people seated alongside you and you can just tell they aren’t too happy about it. (Particularly if they just dozed off.)

It can be a tense situation. So what can you do? How can you relieve the tension? By changing the perspective of the people you need to disturb.

This always seems to happen to me. So my solution? I lean over and say kindly, “Excuse me, I need to get out.” And before my neighbor can even react I follow it with, “Trust me, it’s better this way.” (hee hee)

The Worst Audience… ever!

I always find it fascinating to study any presentation as if it were a formal speech. You can learn a lot from this practice. Most of the elements are the same. And oftentimes I discover things I can use, or things I need to remember to avoid. When observing with a student-like mind, it’s always interesting what you’ll learn.

For example, have you ever really observed a flight attendant giving safety instructions?

You think you have tough audience, how about that gig?

Can you tell if a flight attendant is new?

When I flew recently to Singapore to give a talk and to work on creating this program, I discovered that on international flights the instructions are a little more detailed. They include a demonstration on how to use the life jacket.

When our flight attendant, Cindy, began it was obvious that most people were not even paying attention. In fact some were even sleeping. I’d had a jolt of cafĂ© mocha and was feeling a little hyper so I decided to have a little fun.

I was seated in 19F and proceeded to put an over zealous grin on my face. And I kept pointing to my smile with my two index fingers. I held that until she noticed. What do you think happened?

Instantly she came to life. She couldn’t help but smile. Wow! What a difference! The rest of her presentation was much more exciting.

What happened? I made her “present.” She came into the moment, and the presentation became much more real.

Afterwards when I asked her how she felt she said that she has given it so many times that she was just on “automatic pilot” (no pun intended). She was not even thinking, just going through the motions. This is the life or death stuff of any presentation.

Although this may seem like an extreme example, it is reality. We’ve all given presentations in this manner in some degree. We all have moments in our presentations when we tell a story, rather than “live” the story. Don’t fool yourself. If you drift off even for a moment the audience knows it. This is especially important if part of your goal is to make them laugh. That is why the preparation for being “in the moment” prior to going onstage is critical.

The world is a stage, and you are an audience member and/or performer more often than you think. Look for other examples of presentations around you. What can you learn from them?

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