You talk; they listen. You move; they watch. You make a joke; they laugh. You say something profound; they muse or applaud or frown. My question to you is whether you ‘listen’ to your audience or not. As much as you are the center of attention when addressing an audience, are you aware of the conversation happening in the room?

Good public speakers understand that, while they may be the one doing all of the talking, the reaction of their audience to their words is the conversation. Public speaking is not acting – it is the art of effective communication with an audience. What this means is that the response of your audience to your presentation is the communication process.

Were the definition of public speaking ‘effective communication at an audience,’ then the response of your listeners would not be a variable. Because good public speaking is similar to that of having a conversation, it is of utmost importance that you listen and watch the reaction of your audience to your words.

If, for example, the group is more intent on their blackberries, Ipods, or laptops, they obviously are not paying attention to you. If they are talking amongst themselves or are unobtrusively drifting out of the room, then you are failing to motivate them, educate them, or persuade them to your way of thinking. If they are struggling to keep their eyes (and ears) open, then you have not made them part of your conversation.

Being aware of your audience’s reaction to you is vital if you want them to heed your words. While it is important to deliver a well-scripted speech or presentation with passion and good delivery skills, it is just as important to ‘read’ your audience as you speak. Are they with you or are you losing them? Are they ‘hearing’ what you are saying? The only way you can answer these questions is to listen and watch their response to you.

What can aid you in this method of communicating is to know your audience in advance, definitely one of the trade secrets of good public speakers. When you are booked to speak, create your material with them in mind. Were I invited to speak to a group of policemen, my topic would deal with projection of the voice, not presentation skills. If, on the other hand, I were to address the top administrative level of the police force, I would focus on presentation skills and not on the ability to increase one’s volume without shouting.

The next time you are scheduled to speak, know your audience and then listen to their reaction to you as you communicate with them, not at them.

Author's Bio: 

The Voice Lady Nancy Daniels is President of Voice Dynamic as well as Selfgrowth's Official Guide to Public Speaking. Holding private, corporate and group workshops in voice and presentation skills, she also offers Voicing It!, the only video training program on voice improvement.

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