A big fear most public speakers face is being judged for what they say. Even speakers who are regulars on the conference circuit have never overcome this fear because the fact is, they are being judged!
Fear of other’s judgment is natural and can insidiously manifest itself in a few ways we call “audience resistance”:
- Logical resistance (e.g., Will people challenge their perspective based on their own expertise?)
- Emotional resistance (e.g., Are they engaging in sensitive topics that might strike a nerve?)
- Practical resistance (e.g., Will their advice be practical to implement?)
Speakers who have overcome this fear know acknowledging and embracing the challenge of audience resistance is critical for how their presentation is received. They’ve learned the design and structure of their presentation, not just their persona, is critical in overcoming audience resistance. For example, the best speakers don’t just show up on stage and kill. They’ve worked hours and hours to “resistance test” their presentation. Is it structured in a way that tells a compelling story? Is it relevant and relatable? Where are there holes in their logic or argument?
Equally as important as their presentation structure is how well they can connect with everyone in the room. It’s why you see so many speakers engaging their audience right from the beginning, asking people to raise their hands, or shout out answers to a question. These speakers know they’ve got a wealth of knowledge sitting in front of them that if leveraged appropriately can create a powerful, dynamic session.
In the last few years, some speakers have begun utilizing technology to formally combat this audience resistance. Live polling apps on phones and dedicated devices are increasingly showing up in breakout and keynote sessions alike. These simple polls are just scratching the surface of what’s possible.
Flashcast is the first live audience response app to employ “collective intelligence” capabilities and use the audience to make real-time predictions. Government intelligence agencies and large companies have used collective intelligence for years to make more accurate predictions. Now Flashcast is bringing that same approach to dramatically change how speakers engage with their audiences.
So how can you use Flashcast to create more connection and break down audience resistance?
It’s likely your speaking topic can be enhanced by discussing industry, scientific, or technology trends that give context for the facts and arguments you will be presenting. Unfortunately, those trends are tough to predict and everyone has different opinions about them. So one way to open up your presentation is to ask for predictions about these top-of-mind trends.
For example, let’s say you’re speaking at an auto industry conference about your research on how a certain technology is affecting the rate of automobile innovation. To create a lasting impression about the quick pace of innovation, you might ask your audience, “When will a fully autonomous vehicle be approved for sale to the general public by any Government regulatory body?”
One effective presentation tactic that can create an enduring effect is when you surprise your audience with information that debunks commonly held beliefs. Try using Flashcast to emphasize your story by quantifying what your audience knows before you tell them. As a presenter, this will inform which points you emphasize or what you skip.
For example, let’s say you’re speaking about best-in-class talent management practices at a business management conference, and you are trying to emphasize a “surprising” statistic. You might ask your audience to predict the numbers, like “What percentage of employees report one or more harassment or discrimination experiences at work?”
There is nothing worse that attending a talk at a conference and a few hours later, you can’t remember a single thing about it. Speaking in front of a crowd of experts or enthusiasts has its advantages. One of them being that you can use their own expertise to create a quick and impactful learning experience for everyone -- including yourself.
For example, let’s say you’re a game developer presenting at a gaming conference. Everyone there is a hardcore gamer! Instead of a one-way only delivery of your presentation, ask them predictive questions they can learn from and use, like about the success of a game about to be released, the timing of upcoming technology, or who the winner will be of an upcoming industry awards decision.
With these three tactics, you've got a fool-proof way to crush your presentation. You'll have everyone captivated and mentally present for the rest of your session (the opposite of audience resistance).
By Vanessa Pineda and Ben Schachter