Saturday, April 11, 2009

Must Take Control Of Your Audience

As a professional speaker, one must be ready to speak in any type of room and audience.  Last night, I was the keynote speaker for a cultural banquet of about 150 people.  The room setup was not ideal for a speaker.  Picture dinner tables set up on opposite sides of a dance floor in the middle.  Although there was a podium at one end, it was not ideal since I needed more room to work my martial arts weaponry during my speech.

The audience was challenging too since many people on the back tables continued to be rude enough and talk throughout the official presentations as well as the cultural acts like the singers and dancers.  The local media photographer sitting beside me at my table says that this type of thing has happened before as some people prefer to talk and socialize, ignoring what's going on up at the podium.  My speech was actually scheduled right in between cultural entertainment as well so I don't know how receptive the audience was going to be to a speech.

When it was time for the MC to introduce me, he requested that the audience be seated and pay attention.  Many in the back still did not.  So when it was my turn to perform, I knew that as a speaker, I had to take control of the audience the best I could if I didn't want to be speaking among people in the audience chit chatting all the way throughout my speech.

And this is exactly what I did.  With authority, I spoke right to those in the back who were standing and chatting.  I suppose partly due to my own status of a Canadian National Karate Team member, I boldly asked them to get comfortable back in their seats.  They did.  Then I spoke my heart out which was not hard once I got going since I am more of a big audience speaker anyway.  I did have to keep eye contact with both sides of the room which kept me moving.  I threw in a lot of audience participation, sometimes to each side at a time, which they really enjoyed so it wasn't just some guy talking to them.  

So was the speech received well by the audience?  Well, judging from the nice sized lineup afterwards to buy my book "The Life Champion In You", I would say that it went over quite well despite the less than ideal arrangement of the room.  I was quite happy with the outcome of my talk as were the organizers of the event.  There were lots of people throughout the evening who came up to me to hand me business cards, ask questions, take photos and introduce me to their kids.  Actually, some of the college age daughters I was introduced to were quite attractive.  I should have asked the parents right there on the spot if I could date their daughters, especially after they bought my book!  hahahaha  

So this proves that as a speaker, one MUST take total control of the audience the best possible right at the BEGINNING.  Otherwise chances of failure are high.  It's too bad the MCs were not able to control and insist the audience to be more respectful because some of the other cultural acts were quite entertaining.  It's a shame that they did not get the total attention that they deserved.  

I hope this illustrates to our Toastmasters club members the importance of taking control of your audience the best you could.  Most general audiences outside of Toastmasters are not going to be as attentive as our own club audiences.  I am sure that when I bring my full keynote to our club on May 16, I will have a much easier time with you folks as my audience than the one I had last night.  But the skills we learn here at Toastmasters, are intended to be used outside of our own clubs, right?