One of the reasons I like writing articles is that I can test out real world public speaking techniques and then share my results to you.

Which brings me to a recent speaking engagement that was… how do I say this delicately …well, NOT the ideal speaking situation.

In fact, for any humorist or speaker it might not be ideal. It was certainly a challenge, to say the least. In over 30 years of either speaking or doing stand-up comedy -- this was an engagement that tested me, my ability and confidence.

However, these type of speaking engagements help me grow as a speaker and helps me flex my speaking muscles. And I know they can do the same for you.

So let me explain. I was hired by a hotel chain in Orlando by human resources to speak to about 600 employees that were in middle management positions. So far, so good.

My presentation was to be presented in six training modules over three days. Each module about an hour long with about a hundred staff members attending. I was to do about forty minutes of speaking and twenty minutes of audience interaction. In this case, I was going to do improvisational team building games.

My presentation was called: "Strike While Your Irony is HOT: Overcome Adversity and Creating Work/Life Balance Using Humor!" Pretty straight forward, wouldn't you say?

4 Landmines to Deal With While Speaking to an "International Audience!"

Well, here was my challenge:

a) MORNING - audiences at 9:00 are still waking up and usually aren't in the mood to laugh that much at that time.

b) MULTINATIONAL. Employees are from different countries where English is NOT their first language. Therefore, even though they understand English, the humor, for the most part will be lost on "translation!"

c) MANDATORY - Attending this workshop was NOT optional. It was mandatory by the employer. Making people come to a banquet room and having them sit for an hour and trying to give them actionable content, entertain them, and get a response from them is very difficult. It's like trying to swim against a strong current out in the ocean.

d) DAYS OFF. Because it was mandatory -- a portion of the workers had to attend on their days off. Oh, goody … an audience that HAS to attend on the day they are NOT getting… plus it's either in the morning, or in the middle of their free time. In addition, the speaker (me) has to make them LAUGH about life and work! Not to mention, cajoling volunteers to go up on the platform to do some improvisational exercises in front of their peers that they-have-never-wanted-to-do!

The results were as expected. Laughs were up and down depending upon the group. Not much energy from the audience. The Human Resources person who hired me was more than satisfied with what I did because I continued with a great attitude, got the audience out of their comfort zone. Also, people came up to me after my presentation and thanked me for giving my time and talents to the group.

I also adapted my material on the spot with the feedback with the Human Resources person was giving me.

The upside was that this type of engagement also gave me a chance to work on new stories with this audience and seeing what worked and what didn't.

And here's one last vital point: The biggest response I got from my listeners was when I
customized my material about their lives. THEN their eyes lit up. They smiles and LAUGHED

All because I was zeroing in on what challenges they were going through.
This is why you should always do your best to customize your presentation to finding a solution to your group's problems or situations.

During your speaking career, (and as your platform skills improve), having these types of engagements will roll off your back like a water off a duck's back. If you don't get the audience feedback that you expect, know it is NOT you. It's the situation and you do as well as you can.

Know that if you've done the same presentation over and over again with great results, you're doing a very good job! Would another speaker had gotten the same results? Probably. In addition, when you do come across them, suck it up as I say -- and know you gave 100% to your audience and the person who hired you.

Please write me and tell me about your tales from the road of what happened to you when you were NOT in your ideal speaking or training situation. E-mail me at and tell me about the scenario and your solution for it!

Author's Bio: 

Peter “The Reinvention Guy” Fogel has worked on many TV shows, including Married With Children, Hope and Faith, and Whoopi. He transitioned from a successful stand-up comic to an in-demand freelance advertising copywriter/problem solver. He’s the author of the critically acclaimed book If Not Now… Then When?, Stories and Strategies of People Over 40 Who Have Successfully Reinvented Themselves, and the soon-to-be-released Reboot Your Career: 27 Ways to Reinvent Yourself in the Workplace… If You Still Have a Job!

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