Lowering The Risk For Failure

by Stephen Boyd | December 31, 2006

In his recent autobiography, I Shouldn't Even Be Doing This, Bob Newhart tells what it is like to stand before an audience as a comedian. "Every night I perform, there is a risk: Will it or will it not work? When it works, I get an adrenaline rush. When it doesn't, there's such a terrible low." He also states "Stand-up comedy is not for the faint of heart or small of ego." Is this the same for a presenter? Certainly the speaker is not trying to make people laugh for an hour, but he or she still has the risk of failing because audiences are unpredictable.

What can the speaker do to lower the risk of failure? What can you do to insure success in any given speaking situation? This article will address ways of increasing your chances for success each time you speak. We will assume that you have a topic the audience needs to listen to.

Learn all you can about your audience. The better you know your audience, the more likely your presentation will be successful. Talk to the person who is responsible for your speaking. Contact a recent speaker for the same meeting and discuss what to expect from that group. Ask for the phone number of someone who will be in the audience and find out what he or she knows about the audience. Look at the website for the organization and learn about the history of the group or perhaps what their goals or vision statements are.

Practice new material for your presentation at least three times. This will give you a high comfort level with your content. If you have not spoken to a live audience for a while you might want to practice your entire presentation.

Do your best to have some new material in your presentation or at least material the audience has not heard before. Knowing the audience is going to learn something will help insure your success.

Check for recency of material in your presentation. Knowing you have the latest information on your topic will impress the audience and help them to remember your content.

Finally, arrive early at the speaking site so you can relax and take time to get acquainted with audience members. Meeting new people will take away some of the unknown that can increase the risks of failure.

People are unpredictable, but consider these tips and your chances of success improve greatly.

About the Author

Stephen D. Boyd, Ph.D., CSP, is Professor Emeritus of Speech Communication, College of Informatics, Northern Kentucky University, near Cincinnati. He presents keynotes and seminars to corporations and associations whose people want to speak and listen effectively. See additional articles and resources at http://www.sboyd.com. To book Steve, call 800-727-6520 or email him through his website.

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