The most dreaded time to speak - the 'after lunch slot', where tummies are full and minds are drifting. How do you capture the attention of your audience when their blood flow is diverted to digestion? How do you wake up folks after an hour spent checking social media? How do you bring the attention back to you and your message when all they want to do is rest their eyes?
Apart from the ones who fall asleep, there are those who have stayed in the bar; gone outside for a smoke (with more and more smoking bans this is becoming an even greater issue); they meet old friends/customers/prospects. Again people are coming back in late as well, distracting others. If your aim is to get the audience’s full attention, don't come on after lunch.
But what if you can't pick your time? You're stuck with the after lunch slot and have to make the best of it. Here's exactly what to do...
Change your attitude: If you're dreading your time slot your audience will too!
Remove thoughts like:
- I have to do this!
- They won’t be interested!
- I better just get through this.
- Everyone else does their public speaking like this… (powerpoint), so I should too.
- My audience will be bored because it's the after lunch slot but I guess that’s just the way it’s going to be.
Replace them with thoughts like this:
- I want to do this!
- I’m going to make sure they find this interesting.
- I’m going to be playful and enjoy this speaking opportunity!
- This is my chance to try something new and learn.
- My audience WILL be engaged and challenged no matter what.
Check your body language!
Winston Churchill said “Attitude is a little thing that makes a big difference.” It’s no big surprise that how you carry yourself whilst public speaking makes a tremendous impact on your audience.
- Have you ever experienced someone practically hiding at the corner of the stage during their speech or shuffling in with shoulders slouched and slumped?
- Audiences experience every nuance of a speaker… the way they look, walk, dress, and speak, within a split second of a speaker beginning. When you present yourself with an attitude of fear or discomfort it sets the rest of the stage for your entire presentation.
- Start with a negative attitude towards your speaking abilities and your whole being will show it by trying to hide (sometimes subtly, sometimes literally) from the audience. Even if you ‘put on a show’ your audience can often still tell subconsciously.
If your attitude is more positive, your body will become more natural, open and confident.
- Charisma – Many have a perception of charisma equaling “Something I’m not”, but that’s usually because you have a fixed idea of what charisma is. Surely charisma looks super confident, powerful, slick and funny, with a dazzling smile. Right? Public speaking charisma doesn’t mean being ‘in your face’ if that’s not your style. Your brand of public speaking charisma might look enigmatic, intellectual, sophisticated, enthusiastic, weird, sensual or something entirely different. Find your flavour.
- Be Aware – Look at the way your voice behaves when you speak in public. Once your volume’s not too loud and not too soft, but just right, you can start to use it as a tool for adding drama and tension into what you say. The same goes for an awareness of your gaps, your intonation, your clarity, your energy and so on. Play with your voice and use it to create a story that engages your audience.
- Umm… like… your choice of words – Another way to increase powerful public speaking is to decrease the use of “fillers“. Filler words are utilized in general conversations to signal to the recipient that it’s NOT yet their turn to speak. Basically to keep the speaking stage in order to finish your intended message. While normal in conversations, you don’t need to signal to your audience that it’s “your turn to speak”. That’s why they’re there, to hear this amazing message you’re presenting. Too many “um’s” can cause you to seem less than professional, unprepared, or confused.
- Gravitas or having “weight” as a speaker, both literally and in the words that you say increases your power exponentially. What springs to mind is the Sanskrit word Guru which actually means “heavy one” or one who cannot be pushed over. “You just couldn’t physically push him over because he’s so grounded, he has so much gravitas.”
Jump start your creativity!
We understand very little about how we acquire creativity. Cognitive scientist Paul Thagard has created a list of habits that highly creative people employ, based on the habits of successful scientists. To get creative he advises:
- Make new connections: Don’t use the same old material to create your talk. Look for inner inspiration from a different field and use analogies/comparisons to link things together.
- Don’t be afraid to fail: If you’re always afraid of being wrong, you will severely inhibit your ability to try! Failure is a sign that you’re trying something new and pushing boundaries. We have to learn to fail WELL.
- Persistence: Give it a chance would ya? Give your new style a chance to be successful, even if it feels strange. (and in the beginning it WILL)
- Get excited!: Enthusiasm wins the day. Try looking at your topic through the eyes of a small child. What do you like about it? What thrills will your talk reveal?
- Be sociable: Creativity comes quickly when you’re surrounded by new influences, so look to other people for fresh ideas.
- Use what’s around you: There is inspiration everywhere, if you’re just open to it. Seek metaphors, analogies, stories, and humour from the world at large. Bring the richness of your experience into your public speaking.
Use the situation to your advantage. If someone comes in late - use that in your speech. If someone is nodding off - choose that moment to do something a bit wacky. No matter the situation, or in this case time slot, an inspiring public speaker can get and keep the attention of their audience. Present your message to the world - it's important and your audience will know it... after lunch slot or not!