Saying it differently every time

I have been thinking about what Olivia said in one of her many thoughtful comments here. She mentioned that presenters should “say it differently every time.” That is so true!

Unfortunately, many speakers don’t do that. They pull out their good old standard speech that they have given 30 times before and proceed to do it again for the 31st time – same delivery, same tone, same pitch, same old jokes, blah blah blah. They don’t know the audience. Worst yet – they don’t care. They don’t gauge their delivery AND content to the audience. They don’t realize that every audience is different – even though they may come from the same business sector. The whole presentation becomes a one-way conversation – from the speaker to the audience.

The best way to gauge an audience is to talk to them before your presentation – if you can. If you can’t, you can do a QUICK poll before your talk. I do that with my seminar participants. These are environmental managers with varying background and experience. Every group is different. I always go around the room after a very brief intro and ask them to answer three questions: what do you do? why are you here? what do you hope to get out of this 2 day seminar?

I then tailor my presentation accordingly. (By the way – no amount of rehearsal can prepare me for this!).

I know I know – I had said in an earlier post that you should not do polling. But that was for a one-hour webinar. For a 2-day seminar, it is OK to spend several minutes polling the audience. It also gives the audience a chance to know who their follow attendees are and begin the all-important process of networking among them.


4 responses to “Saying it differently every time

  1. Hi Norman

    I agree with you about trying to avoid polling during your presentation. It’s something that should be done before, it at all possible. If you have the email addresses of the attendees it’s now very easy to do a quick poll using tools such as Surveymonkey and wufoo.

    In relation to longer seminars, I also agree in the value of participants seeing where they stand relative to other participants in terms of knowledge and experience. We do pre-seminar questionnaires and exercises to allow participants to get to know each other in this way.


    • Olivia,

      We also pass out an email contact list for those who would like to take in touch with their fellow attendees. They put their email addresses on the list and everyone on it get a copy.


  2. The beauty of a slide set that is minimal is that you can make up your presentation to deliver the theme (the story) you want to tell/teach/discuss but tailor the actual narrative to fit the audience’s mood … you can feel how they feel and modify how you say the key points. The end point is the same (Why the narrative), how you travel there is dependant on the audiences subtle feedback as you present…. if you write a script this tends not to happen… maybe its the difference between a movie and a play?

  3. Jim,

    Yes! The key to a great presentation is flexibility and adaptability. The speaker has to be able to adjust to the audience’s needs and reaction in much the same way we do when we have a conversation with our friends. A scripted (over rehearsed) presentation will not do it.


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