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Speech-Time Exclusive, Issue #003 -- Audience Techniques: Awakening the Dead
July 15, 2008
Audience Techniques: Awakening the Dead
Have you ever spoken to a dead audience? No reaction, no matter how good your stories or how funny your jokes! There's one technique I've found that always brings the dead back to life. Here's the secret:
It doesn't sound complicated, and it's not. If you can get someone up on stage with you, you'll instantly have everyone's complete attention. Why? Two reasons:
1. They're wondering what will happen - and realize it could happen to them.
2. They're thinking about what they would say. (And are possibly nervous about getting called up themselves.)
By getting someone up there with you, you turn the tables on your audience. You're no longer solely responsible for the presentation. Your audience has something new and exciting to watch and think about. Beyond that, your volunteer can boost your credibility by adding useful, important, value-building information that the audience will be sympathetic with because your volunteer is one of them.
Jump down past the quote for ideas to get audience participation.
All speech, written or spoken, is a dead language, until it finds a willing and prepared hearer. (Robert Louis Stevenson, Reflections and Remarks on Human Life, sct. 3)
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How can you get audience members on stage? Here are a few of my favorite ways:
1. Get somebody to tell a story to prove your point. If you know who that person is beforehand, even better. If you don't know anyone in the audience, ask for volunteers. For example, if you're speaking to PR employees about customer relations, you might ask for customer relations horror stories. Someone is certain to have one. You might have to open up with a story yourself, but people will share if you're persistent.
2. Point out someone who is a good example of what you're saying. If you're discussing dress for interviews and formal events, call someone up who is dressed well for such an occasion.
3. Recognize someone for a recent award or accomplishment. Call him up on stage for the recognition.
Finally, have fun! Humor will change a potentially embarrassing situation to a fun one. To close, give your helper a gift and lead the audience in a round of applause. They'll be awake; you'll have their attention. Success - you brought your dead audience to life!
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