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In past blog posts we've talked all about empathy, One of the biggest problems speakers face is focusing too much on themselves and not enough on their audience. And we've focused on learning about your audience and the importance of location. Because let’s face it… knowing exactly to whom you’re presenting and HOW you’re presenting matters more than you may think.
By this point you should be swimming in empathy for your who you think your audience is, but how do you us all that lovely preparation in reality? We call this 'Crowd Management' and it all begins with the agreements you set with your audience.
This process occurs at the beginning of your speech. You know, the part where you set the expectations for exactly what you and the audience want to get from your talk.
There are two simple ways to set agreements with your audience. Intense and In-Depth.
This method works best for large groups or monologues where you are the authority.
'We have an extraordinary audience, an elite. Renowned <insert profession here>' Agreement for an audience who needs to be seen as intelligent.
'I'm so grateful for an hour of your time' Agreement on time.
'I've already received many questions from you about my topic today, so I'm so glad to be providing you with current and relevant information that can help you with your work.' Agreement on topic.
'Because we're all very busy, I believe you'd like me to give as much information to you as I can in the time we have together today'. Agreement on speaker style - I'll give you lots of info.
'Does all this sound good to you?' If they say unequivocally YES! then skip this step. If they don't seem convinced then adjust.
'No worries, it appears that some of you have different goals than me. I definitely want you to leave here with what you came for, so I'll be sure to leave time at the end for questions.'
Show the audience how you're going to give them what they need.
'Fabulous, let's get right to it then shall we? Those of you who've seen me before know that I adore using video clips in my talks' Agreement on speaker style.
'So let's get it all started with this one...'
This Intense way of setting agreements is really helpful if you have a specific message, if you really know your audience, or running low on time.
This method works best for group work, Q & A, and workshops. Any time where the focus is on the audience growing and learning together. It gives power to your audience, so they feel that they've agreed with what your speech is about. Helping the audience to listen and remember your information reflects well on you and your message.
'I see that you're intelligent and enthusiastic audience'. Agreement on audience needs.
'I'd like for you to take part in determining what we're going to cover today'.
'Can you tell me what the most important topic you want to cover today? I'd like to know your questions about this topic.' Agreement on topic.
'We might like to make some agreements on how best to work together as a group. Would you like my personal experiences or more time to work as a group? How best can we make this work for you?' Agreement on speaker style.
This step can quickly get away from you if you let it. Make it sharp and short, get only one idea from each audience member.
'We have quite a few requests from you here. Which do you view as the most important? What can we scrap?'
'We've now narrowed down what you'd like to get from today's session. The majority of this falls right into step with my own goals. We'll likely get through most of this today, but can we agree to let this point slip? It's a complicated topic that I believe will detract from our goals, so I'll give you a list of articles on this subject.'
Utilise your expertise to show your audience what is most helpful to them. If there's something you don't wish to cover, clarify why you won't be talking on it. You could say 'That's not in my wheelhouse' or 'That's a topic for another workshop altogether' or even 'I wish we had the time to cover that but unfortunately we do not'. All three are adequate and credible reasons for cutting short. In order to demonstrate empathy and avoid disappointment you must make this agreement openly.
'This is what I'm proposing for today's session. As you can see we've covered the majority of your points. We can cover the other items in the Q & A at the end. Sound good?'
This entire process, though it seems long on paper or computer screen, can be achieved in minutes if you're having an hour or two session. It can take much longer if you're working with a group for several days.
Once you've done this multiple times with different audiences, you'll learn to anticipate common questions and audience expectations. It's all about honing your ability to put empathy into practice, instead of it being an abstract idea.
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