May 5, 2016

The "Pre-Talk" Walk

"Understand your surroundings." How many times have you heard that advise or have given that advice yourself? Paying attention to the road you're traveling, the woods you're are hiking or even the lake you're going to dive into all lead to this sound advise; understand your surroundings. 

When giving a talk to a group of people, whether it's large or a handful, you should always understand your surroundings. Familiarize yourself with the room. If it's a small group, the setting could be a conference room. Getting there early and finding the optimum seat helps you be in a prime position when speaking. This may be a committee meeting so you may ask for an agenda pre-meeting and, if for an existing committee, ask for the minutes of the previous meeting.

If you are speaking to a large group, again, understand your surroundings. You should;
  • know the time that your host would like you to begin
  • arrive early.
  • check out the sound system.
  • perform microphone checks because a clear mic is important. Make sure that someone is at the furthest point of room and can hear you clearly without you shouting
  • make sure the temperature is on the cool side. Even the most interesting of people will lose people's attention in warm rooms.
  • make sure the podium, or the area your occupying for your talk, is conducive to maximum audience engagement.
  • make sure your note cards are on the podium and the area is well lit so you're not squinting while trying to read in the dark.
  • ask if there will be a dinner/coffee service during the talk so your timing can be better prepared. There is nothing worse than the key point of talk being drowned out by wait staff banging plates.
  • make sure you have water by your side (you'll thank me later!)
  •  make sure you utilize the facilities prior to the talk (again, you'll thank me later!!) 
  • If you are at a podium, take off your watch and place it where you can see the face. Last thing you want is your audience observing you checking your watch but you knowing your timing is important. Just don't forget to put it back on after the talk.
When your introduction begins and your name is called to come up, begin to inhale deeply through your nose and lightly exhale as your our walking to your designated spot. Turn to the crowd knowing that your talk is prepared and the room is set to your ideal conditions. It is now "your show."

Next week, the talk.

submitted by Michael Kurpiel, CGA, CGP 

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