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The Q & A Session


The Question and Answer session after your presentation can be unsettling, especially if you're anxious about the kinds of questions you may be asked. A good presenter tries to anticipate questions from the audience during the process of preparing for the talk, and in doing so, do some research to be able to address possible unanticipated questions. This alone, can you maintain poise and confidence. A good rule of thumb is, if you KNOW your subject matter and overall presentation with all the specifics behind your statements, you should do fine. Here are some tips to help you survive a Q & A session:

  • Be sure you understand the question. You may have to repeat it or reword it. In answering it, be brief clear, concise and to the point. No more, no less.
  • As you're answering a question, target it towards the overall interests of the majority of the group. If a top decision maker is present, consider answering what that person may also find interesting or relevant.
  • The Question & Answer session is usually after the presentation. Often, the time allotted to answer questions is limited to, say, 5 or 10 minutes which limits the number of questions that can be addressed. A good way to control the number of questions is to have people write questions on a piece of paper and pass them up to you the lectern. This allows you a few moments to not only preview and think about a reply and it also allows you to be more selective in which question to answer and as well how "in depth" you will go into it.
  • If you don't have an answer or don't know about a certain area within the question, say so! The audience will respect you for being candid. Never try to fudge your way with a "white lie" or by side stepping the answer with an impromptu, long winded answer. People know when they're being fooled. Just admit that "I'm not familiar with that aspect" or "Frankly, I don't know" and promise to find out and to get back with them within a day or two. By all means do so! You don't want to lose your credibility.
  • If a question requires a lot of detail, irrelevant to the topic at hand or may require a personalized reply, offer to meet after the session is over or during the break. Exchanging contact information is also an option where you both can discuss the question away from the venue with less time limitations or distractions.

The Question and Answer session is a great opportunity to shine. All it takes is being well prepared with the knowledge of the subject matter in your presentation and knowing the overall presentation itself, backwards and forwards, so that you can revert to any part of your presentation and expand on any statement within it. You will appear to answer with authority, poise and confidence. Think it's easier said than done? Not really. Remember, YOU are the one being asked to speak, probably because it was felt that you have the knowledge and expertise on the subject matter that the audience wants you to share. Give yourself that. It's a privilege and rather humbling to be able to share with others who want to hear about what you know.

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Labels: public speaking, engage the audience, fearless presentations


Public Speaking: 10 Keys for Correct Lectern Etiquette

Lectern Etiquette

Great speakers are natural and have an individual style. Style, however, is very different from protocol. As a speaker, you can destroy your credibility with poor lectern etiquette. Here are some tips for delivering professional presentations:

  1. Do not lean on the lectern. The lectern is there to hold notes, hide awards, and to support the microphone and other electronic devices. It is not a leaning post. Holding on to it with a white-knuckle grip announces to the audience you are nervous. Stand straight, a few inches away from the lectern, with both feet firmly on the ground.
  2. Gentlemen button coats. A buttoned suit jacket is a must for male speakers. During the speech, keep it buttoned if the speech is formal and/or does not require any arm waving or extreme body movement. Women may also button their jackets, however, because women's styles vary, a buttoned jacket is not required; women suffer enough having to wear high heels.
  3. Shake hands with the person who introduced you. In days gone by, when a person approached the lectern after the introduction, the introducer handed over control of the meeting by passing the gavel to the person being introduced. Today, with a handshake, control of the lectern occurs symbolically while giving an appearance of continuity and friendship. It is rude to both the speaker and audience to introduce a speaker and then leave the lectern unattended as the speaker approaches. The lectern or podium is the focus of the audience's attention; do not jeopardize the professionalism of your event by leaving it unattended.
  4. Always thank the introducer and greet the audience. Proper etiquette requires good manners. Before beginning your speech, it is polite to thank the person who introduced you and to greet the audience making a special greeting to dignitaries, government officials, and other special attendees. Remember you were invited and consider it a privilege.
  5. Familiarize yourself with proper introduction techniques. Learn proper introduction techniques and practice choreography at the lectern before-hand, if possible. The introducer and the guest speaker should not appear to be dancing as they exchange positions.
  6. Do not apologize for lack of preparation. There is no substitute for preparedness, however, there are times when preparation is not possible. Never apologize for lack of preparation! This insults the audience who will be wondering why you showed up and why you are wasting their time if you are not prepared. Cancel or postpone the engagement or, when this is not possible, take a few minutes to gather your thoughts, outline them on paper, and proceed with your speech. Chances are no one will even notice you are unprepared so why make it a point to tell them? If you are frequently called upon to speak at a moment's notice, prepare a "pocket" speech you can pull out and give anytime, anywhere, with variation.
  7. Eliminate distracting habits and verbal crutches. Those uhs, ahs, and ums can be very distracting and annoying. Practice your speech and record it to identify verbal crutches. Jitters can create havoc on your nervous system without you even knowing it. Nervous distractions like jiggling, tapping, hand clutching, etcetera, can detract from your talk. Learn good speaking posture, slow down, take a few deep breathes, and exhale any uneasiness. If you have a great speech and have practiced it, concentrate on relating your message to the audience, rather than how it is going to be received. Your delivery will appear natural and effortless if you concentrate on delivering your message with enthusiasm and sincerity.
  8. Every gesture, look, motion, and sound should have a purpose. Although body movement can enhance a message, movement that is made for the sole purpose of movement appears unnatural and awkward. Use hand and body movement to emphasize a point or to help the audience visualize. Naturalness comes with knowing your speech and practice. Practice relating the concept of your speech rather than practicing gestures. This technique brings out the natural you.
  9. Do not lose eye contact. Some talks are made to be read, others are not. Whether your notes are for reference only or meant to be read, poor eye contact is distracting. Good eye contact is a learned skill; practice.
  10. Do not thank your audience. As children, we were taught that it is polite to say thank you. It still is but, after a speech, it is erroneously used to fill in the space after the last word has been uttered. As you have already thanked everyone at the beginning of your speech, deliver a powerful closing, then simply turn it over to the next person with a smile and a handshake.

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Labels: lectern etiquette, lectern speaker rules, podium body movement, podium protocol, podium rules, public speaking


What To Do When You're Losing Your Audience

Loosing Them

Losing the audience is one of the most terrifying experiences all presenters want to avoid. First of all, you have to make sure you know it's even happening. It's great to focus on your message but as you're delivering your message, make sure you simultaneously scan your audience looking for "clues" indicating boredom, negative body language, etc. "Salvage" techniques you use as you're losing your audience depends on the audience, purpose of the talk, and topic. For example, techniques you use to "wake up" a group of high schoolers are different from those you use when speaking to a Board of Directors.

In any case, realizing you're losing your audience and doing something about it early on, is critical. Once you've lost the audience, however, it's next to impossible to bring it back and you can kiss the lectern goodbye. If that's the case, determining why you lost your audience in the first place, is the key to preventing it from happening in the future. Was it because of a poor delivery or was it because of a presentation that was unorganized, hard to follow or not relevant to the interests of the audience? Rather than beating yourself up, learn from the experience and focus on the future using these tips before you get behind the lectern:

  • Ask an SME, colleage or someone who is successful in getting his/her message across to evaluate you. Make sure this person knows what to look for and has a proven record of presentation saavy and know-how.
  • Seek someone who will be candid and honest with their evaluation of your presentation and delivery. Often what we think and do is usually very different from what the audience sees, perceives and thinks. Take the suggestions seriously, smooth out the rough edges, and rehearse in front of a mirror or use a video camera or audio recorder. Keep rehearsing until you feel confident with yourself and your material. You want to flow effortlessly.
  • Welcome the feedback, good or bad. The feedback can be invaluable and, if taken seriously, you'll definitely reap the reward of a great applause. How can you grow and improve as a presenter if you don't know what areas need improvement? This is not the time to be thin-skinned. Don't take it personal. It's not about you, it's about your message.

Getting good feedback as you develop your skills in the creation of a dynamic presentation and in it's delivery, definitely increases the chances that your listeners will stay engaged and interested when the big day comes to present.

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Labels: behind the lectern, engage audience, fearless presentations, feedback, grabbing audience attention, presentation evaluation, presentation feedback, presentations, public speaking, stress management


What is a Program Agenda?


Before getting into the details about a Program Agenda, I thought it best to define it. First of all, the overall schedule of events that occur during an event gathering is called a Program. The written schedule of planned activities, their duration, and person(s) assigned to present or lead that activity within the Program, is called the Agenda or the agenda of the program itself.

The Program Agenda serves two purposes: 1) as an outline or roadmap of the activities that the attendees can expect to occur during the gathering and 2) as a visual guide for the presenters themselves, to help them know where they fit in the overall Program and how much time is allotted for their respective presentation or activity. A Program Agenda shows the duration of each activity on the Program so that it starts and finishes on time, and flows.

From start to closing, the entire Program can take anywhere from an hour to a full day or more, depending on its purpose. The gathering can take the form of a meeting or a more formal event that is usually put together by an organization or company. Program Agendas are often used in functions that include a sit down meal. A Master of Ceremonies (Emcee) is often used as a coordinator or orchestrator of the Program. He/she serves as the glue between each activity, helping the attendees enjoy the Program by explaining who or what's up next on the Agenda. A good Emcee follows a carefully designed Program Agenda, keeping the Program flowing and on time, while maintaining an upbeat mood. The Program Agenda acts as a roadmap for the Emcee (and presenters) to follow and a framework for attendees as to what is going on in real time.

With careful planning and dynamic execution of your Program Agenda, chances are you will "nail it" and all the participants, sponsors and attendees will be looking forward to next year's event.

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Labels: agenda, emcee, event planning, lectern etiquette, master of ceremonies


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