Have you ever lost track of time in running a workshop? A bit embarrassing to eat into the participants’ break time. Unfortunately it happened to me recently, and fortunately the incident prompts me to address it. So what are some effective and seamless ways to do so without alerting the participants?
Tip 1: Have a printout of the workshop schedule. I made this one after my workshop as a reminder that I should do so for all future workshops. Big font size so it is easy to read.
Tip 2: Have a desk clock. Make sure you can see it from a distance. I also put color sticker around the clock for each section, for example, for a 9-10 am presentation with three parts: 20, 15 and 15 minutes respectively, I would put a green sticker at 10:20, yellow at 10:35 and red at 10:50.
Tip 3: Set silent alerts on your smart watch. Many people have a smart watch nowadays and it is very discreet to set vibrate alerts using it. None of the audience will notice that there are only 5 minutes left in the presentation, except for yourself.
Having shared my tips, these are some well-known tricks that I do NOT use personally and my reasoning:
An assistant with timing cards. It would distract at least one participant from paying full attention to the presentation. In addition, you have to coordinate with another person and that person may forget if they get absorbed into your presentation (which is a good thing!).
PowePoint timing display. I often set the presentation in presentation mode at least 10 minutes before my presentation to build anticipation, so the timing is already off. Plus, I often stand too far away from the laptop to see the darn thing.
Have fun tracking your presentation time and make the most of it. Do let me know if you have any of your own tricks – I will always have a few minutes for those! 🙂
Pause. Yes, a simple pause is what I consider as the Swiss army knife in public speaking. Think about it:
– Do you find yourself rambling sometimes and turning into a train that is about to go off track? Apply a pause and breathe.
– Are you transitioning from one key point to another? Combine a pause with a physical transition from one speaking area to another.
– How about building up audience’s anticipation before you announce your most ingenious … surprise!
– Too many of us have our filler words when speaking, using words such as “uhm” and “so” leading into an important sentence/message. Don’t they feel awkward for you and your audience? Replace them with a confident pause.
– When you forget what you are about to say. … Then you are back.
It is true that pauses often feel much longer when you are derivering them in front of an audience. The trick is to practice, practice and practice. After all, pause is extremely versatile and portable, like a Swiss army knife. I know I always find myself pleasant surprised at how good it feels to apply pauses, and pat myself on the back for remember using it – after all we all carry one already.
Over six weeks, my course participants and I embarked on an amazing journey of becoming better Tech Talkers. After a lot of hard work, plenty of laughter and some phenomenal progress, we arrived at the finish line. And this is what the prize of confidence looks like!
Congratulations to all the participants! Thanks to the glowing review, Foo Café and talk&awe plan to offer the six-session course again, starting on Tuesday, 14 April, 2015. Contact Foo Café if you would like additional information. Let’s talk and awe!
I would be very worried if my audience was silent. For an entire presentation. Worse if it continues after the presentation.
So how do I avoid it? I think the key lies in the desire of establishing and making a strong connection with the audience. By now, my curiosity in the audience has killed all the 9 cat lives I had and I am still alive, so I guess that means it is worth taking the risk and interest in your audience.
For me, the interest starts with the question of “WIIFM?” (What’s In It for Me?) from the audience’ perspectives. Once you get the answers, it should be fairly easy to list some open and closed questions that are easy for the audience to provide those answer. For example, this is what happened during my Tech-Talker training session on Monday. I know the participants would want to improve their public speaking skills and get more engaged audience, so I asked questions like, “Why is verbal communication important?”, “Have you experienced a similar situation in the past?” and “How is your typical audience like?” …By the way, the last question is how I got an overwhelming response of “silent audience”, and hence the idea for this blog posting.
Writing a blog is the closet I am to a silent audience, but by its nature, it is more one-directional. But even with that, I have a trick to deal with that – I have a lot of confidence in my messages! Confidence that the messages will connect with you and encourage some of you to discuss with me me about these topics, one day. And I am also hopeful that the day will be soon. 🙂 Until then, I will keep on sharing on topics that I will keep thinking “WIIFM” for you, and write on topics that would be interesting to you.
I am not worried about “silent audience”. 🙂 Are you?
I don’t know about your audience, but mine does not have time to put up with any bad presentations – clever bunch, aren’t they? This is why I have developed a six-session Tech-Talker Course, which is tailored to improve the public-speaking knowledge and skills of the IT professionals in the Öresund region. The first session will be on Tuesday, 13 January, 2015. If this is something you think you or your colleagues would benefit from, please read more on: Tech-Talker Course Info.
The course is in cooperation with Foo Café in Malmö, Sweden. I think their slogan is very exciting – “Learn+Create+Share”. I know there will be plenty of all that fantastic mix at the Tech-Talker Course! Hope to see you there!