You’re Always On Stage

by Ann Timmons, Communications Artist

Picture this: you’re facing a room full of strangers, sharing your news of your latest innovation, when suddenly too many blank faces stare back at you, and you wonder if you’re speaking a foreign language.  Or, you’ve just confidently delivered your best product pitch, but the questions asked indicate people did not get what you were saying.

Sound familiar? It happens to a lot of us. Talking about complicated energy and/or sustainability topics can make you feel like you need to prove you know your stuff.

If you wait for the Q & A at the end to gauge audience understanding, you run the risk of losing your audience before you get there. That’s not a risk any of us can afford.

Or, remember when you saw an esteemed expert whose logic got lost and whose point was buried under a pile of jargon? You walked out confused or bored or thinking that was a waste of time. But sometimes we use jargon too, just because we’re used to it.

When Joan Michelson interviews experts for Green Connections Media, she does an amazing job of having them “break it down” for her audience. Sadly, we can’t all travel around with a great communicator like Joan in our pocket!

We have to build our own bridges to listeners and send our message across it. Because wherever we are speaking – a classroom, an auditorium, or a meeting room — our primary objective is to connect. Always.

That means taking a step back. Getting out of the weeds. You may be deeply immersed in your topic and excited to share your knowledge, but unless you speak a language (literally and figuratively) that your audience understands, you won’t connect.

If people don’t understand the larger relationships between various energy-related technologies and climate change, for example, maybe it’s because no one they’ve heard explained it in a way they understand.  Remember what that feels like when you’re preparing to give your next presentation, no matter if it’s an audience of one or 100 or 500, or a television or radio audience of thousands.

If you wait for the Q & A at the end to gauge audience understanding, you run the risk of losing your audience before you get there. That’s not a risk any of us can afford.

 

As a speaker, you have to take responsibility for connecting the dots for the audience.

Tips:

  • Step outside yourself and into the shoes of the audience
  • What might be complicated or hard for them to comprehend?
  • Ask someone to help, someone who is not expert the way you are.
  • Then break it down.
  • You need to make a plan and “bake it into” your presentation.


So, step outside of the box you’ve put yourself in. The one where you’re comfortable talking to people who already understand what you mean. And try to connect with others out there in the wide, wide world.

©2016  

ann-timmons-portrait-fr-herAnn Timmons is a Communications Artist who teaches people how to speak so others will listen, using her background as an actor, director, writer, and teacher. Ann’s distinctive approach to presentation skills and communications training helps each client discover and embrace an authentic presence. Her clients include current political leaders, as well as business and non-profit leaders, and she’s been honored with the prestigious Alice Paul Award from American University for her work with the Women and Politics Institute. www.anntimmons.com.