When you deliver a presentation, one of the things which can affect your confidence is your audience’s faces.
Has that been your experience?
How do you view the varying faces staring back at you?
Here are your 3 steps to overcoming being distracted by the blank faces.
Know your audience
The face of an average person in an audience is less responsive than the face of a person in a more intimate/personal conversation.
Coupled with that fact, facial expressions vary from one person to another. So, the concentration face for some may look like an… ‘I’m slightly constipated’ face. For others, the concentration may appear to be anger or contempt.
Additionally, you will never know what some in your audience are going through in their personal lives. Someone in your audience may struggle with crowds or anxiety and find they like to listen with their eyes closed! Some may be distracted by family trauma or financial worries that make it difficult to be fully engaged at that time.
Whatever the case an important thing to remember is… ‘don’t get too narcissistic’! It really isn’t always about you! There are many factors completely unrelated to you that you need to allow for in your expectations.
An article I read recently suggested you should love blank faces, and this was far as it went! But, if this is where it ends, you line yourself up to be content with mediocracy. The next two steps will help you to move from just accepting those expressionless faces, to trying to engage them, ultimately making you a more effective speaker.
Find the friendlies
Although the audience as a rule is more passive, there are usually a few friendly faces. There are also often some generous spirited individuals who give a lot of positive feedback. During your presentation occasionally return to these as you speak. (not too frequently though, you don’t want to make them uncomfortable)
If you return to the friendly faces periodically during your presentation, you will receive some positive stimulus that will help with your confidence. This in turn will make you feel a little more relaxed whilst you continue. Knowing that someone is listening, and enjoying listening to you can have a huge impact on your confidence.
A little tip: Create your friendlies before your presentation. If you don’t know your audience already, try to forge an opportunity to speak with some audience members prior to the presentation. Providing you were polite in this brief encounter, they will likely find it easier to warm to you and will feel more of a connection with you before you even say your first words from the podium.
Use your skills
Start with a pause and a smile. Not really skills, but very valuable. Taking a few moments before you get going to engage positively with your audience will connect you to your audience. This also allows you an opportunity to gather your thoughts and compose yourself.
Liberally use questions throughout your presentation. This will ensure you keep your audience involved and engaged.
Have you ever felt…..?
What do you see in this graph?
Why do I make that statement?
These types of questions even if rhetorical, allow for mental response keeping your audience involved in what you are saying.
Eye contact. Your audience needs to feel they are valued, and they will only feel this if you give them personal attention. If they feel personally involved they will be more likely to respond with positive reaction. If you have notes or a PowerPoint, timing of your eye contact is also key, make sure that you are looking up when making important points or asking your questions. If you make a point or ask a question and you have your eyes down,…. you’ve lost your connection and impact.
Of course, this is not an exhaustive list of skills to engage your audience, but these simple things will go a long way to changing a face.
Often our fears are based on our perception, whether founded on reality or not. Our confidence can be affected by external stimulus that we may have misread or exaggerated in our minds. Understanding our audience, putting rationale behind what may seem like negative stimulus, and then concentrating on the more positive stimulus can give us confidence when we deliver a presentation.
Then by developing useful skills we will also increase our confidence going into our presentation. Taking these 3 steps will help you to change the face of your audience, making your public speaking experiences more pleasurable.
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