It's not a widely known fact, but every audience, however large or small, has four natural and usually subconscious tensions.
The Four Tensions are Between:
The audience and the audience. Members of the audience usually don't know each other or have not seen each other for some time; hence, they often wonder about or have the need to talk to each other.
The audience and the presenter. Because audience members don't always know the presenter well, they can feel some natural tension toward the presenter and the presenter often has similar feeling towards the audience.
The audience and the materials. Audience members are often given lots of materials, for example: three ring binders or stapled handouts. Audience members may thumb through the materials and break eye contact with the presenter.
The audience and the environment. People sometimes just aren't "comfortable." The whole atmosphere matters. Some controllable causes of tension include:
The seats are not comfortable.
Acoustics issues: Some can't hear you clearly.
Sight lines aren't clear: some people can't see the screen
You can become one of the professional presenters who is aware of these tensions and begin dealing with them IMMEDIATELY. You can plan and execute a way to eliminate the four most common tensions that block reception of your message!
Here are some tested ways to help reduce tension:
Audience vs. Audience: Create something for them to do where they can talk, socialize and connect to each other before your session. Coffee & rolls is one traditional way to get people to meet & mingle.
Audience vs. Presenter: "Warm" openings (such as a joke on yourself) that cast you as a normal human is a good start.
Then be clear about your purpose, process and payoff to convey that you are prepared and have something of value for them. Establishing and maintaining eye contact, as well as smiling will also help reduce tension.
Audience vs. Material: Provide materials "just in time". Layer your handouts and distribute as needed, versus all at once. Or, if you have a big binder or a lot of materials to hand out, ask them to thumb through and familiarize themselves and then set them aside and focus back on you.
Audience vs. Environment: This refers to the seating, lighting, media and temperature control. The good host is aware of the environment and tries to make it as comfortable as possible for the attendees. The best way to do this is to test ahead of time and confirm your set-up by asking questions.
By acting on these known factors to reduce tensions, you will allow your audience to:
Be ready to hear your message
Be focused on what you are saying, instead of a tension factor.
Be able to hear, see and absorb your message more clearly.
To allow them to be focused hear your message more clearly. Which will in turn increase the buy-in for your message.
When you or your staff plan your next presentation, meeting, sales call or training session, think about the four tensions ahead of time All the tension factors are important, but if you look at just one, Environment is the "prerequisite." If people are too hot or too cold, can't hear you or are distracted by extraneous noise, and can't see your slides, your chances of success go down dramatically.
Tony Jeary – Mr. PresentationTM - is the author of 7 books on the subject of presentation, including Inspire Any Audience and The Complete Guide to Effective Facilitation. For more information about Tony or to order his products and save 20-40% go to www.yoursuccessstore.com.