Was Your Presentation Effective

by Stephen Boyd | July 31, 2005

After a presentation, most audience members will applaud you when you finish and perhaps some will say to you after the presentation, "Nice job," or, "I really enjoyed your speech." But these responses are often perfunctory rather than genuine compliments. In our culture it is just the accepted thing to do.

How can you really tell that an audience was influenced by your presentation? Here are some thoughts from one who has delivered more than 2,000 speeches.

There are a couple of no-brainer audience responses! When the decision-maker is in the audience and you get that person to sign on the bottom line for whatever you are selling, you are obviously effective. In addition, when a group asks you to come back and speak the second time, you realize that what you said was so valuable that they want to hear more.

But there are also subtle ways you can tell that your speech was well-received. Sometimes, as you look at the people in your audience, you can tell by their eyes that you have captured their attention and they can’t resist listening. Certainly a polite audience will look at you and even smile and nod their heads appropriately, but the eyes of a responsive audience have a piercing look that encourages you as a speaker. In fact, under these circumstances you will sometimes surprise yourself at how effective you can be with the delivery and the content of your message. In essence, when you are getting through to an audience, you may be better at speaking than you think you are capable of being because of their rapt attention.

In addition, when a person makes a specific positive comment afterward about something you said—maybe even a few days later—it usually means you connected with him or her. The "good job" comment is being nice and polite; a reference to a particular part of your speech means you made him or her to think and possibly to reconsider an idea.

Finally, you are effective when you sense the audience responding as one. This is called social facilitation and simply means audience members can affect one another. Applause and laughter are often a result of one person starting and others joining in. As a speaker, you can feel the moment when the audience quits being individuals in a group and instead becomes a unit with a common interest in what you are saying. The individuals feel oneness because they all are caught up in your presentation. This symbiotically encourages you to lose yourself in your message and to concentrate on the benefits to the audience.

You can stop wondering if your speech is effective; look for any of these elements either during or following your presentation and you will know. Beware! A speech well-received can be addictive to the speaker!

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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