I’m hooked on the new television show, “The Walking Dead,” which is about the end of the world with zombies in it. To me, it’s a show about relationships; about what happens when things get tough and people pull together to survive. But it’s also about zombies.
Have you ever spoken in front of a crowd who seemed like the walking dead?
What would you do if you walked into a room and it was full of zombies? As a public speaker, there are going to be times when your audience is tired, or they’re the after-lunch crowd and they’re ready to take a nap.
Fortunately, I know how to make an audience come alive and feel great about their experience. Here are some of my methods to wake the dead:
1. Change Their Physical State.
When you walk into a room and the energy feels heavy, you need to change their physical state. That doesn’t mean you jump on stage and say, “woo-hoo!” Your audience needs to change its physical state, not you.
Stand up! How do you change their physical state? A good introducer will have the audience stand up, saying, “Stand up and welcome ___, let’s give them a hand.” That’s one way to change their state. Is it the best or fastest way? Maybe. There are several different tools and methods, and you need to decide, as a speaker, which ones to use at the right time.
If your introducer is not comfortable doing it, then simply do it yourself. You come on stage, everybody applauds, and now you say, “I want every one to please stand up!” In full energy and full excitement. They stand up and you can do whatever feels natural. You can say, “good afternoon (morning, evening) everyone! Give yourself a hand. Woo-hoo!” Whatever you want to do.
I often tell people to pat themselves on the back and say “good job for being here,” or I say, “turn to their neighbor and pat them on the back and say, ‘good job for being here.’” You want to do that immediately. When I come out, before my attention grabber is to say, “good morning, everyone!” Then encourage them to repeat it back to me. If they don’t do it loud enough, I get them to do it again. It changes their state.
Create Audience Participation: One great way to get audience participation is to get a volunteer to come up on the stage to do something with you. However, I warn you, if you do that too long, you’ll lose your audience. For instance, when someone is chosen for a hot seat as an example; this can backfire because it excludes your audience, instead of includes them. When you bring someone onto the stage, everyone lives vicariously through them, but only for a short period of time. Anything longer than 2 minutes and your audience will get lost.
Another way to get audience participation is to have your audience repeat words. Oftentimes I say, “People buy from people they know and like because . . . “ and then I let them fill in the blank. You can do this type of thing for audience participation. I also throw candy for good responses to encourage the audience to answer questions. Think of different ideas you can incorporate into your speech. The more dead your audience, the more you will need to use these techniques. Bring out the double guns.
Make it an experience: To make them come alive, you need to create an experience. They want to see, feel and experience what you have to say. What will allow an experience for everyone? Break them into groups or have partners. People don’t want to be left out or not chosen so make it easy and non-threatening for them. Tell them to pick the person next to them, and if they don’t have a partner, get in threes. Make it really easy for them.
If you’re conducting a workshop or training, you might want to do a count off or something more formal; but In a 30-60 minute presentation, you have to make it really easy because you don’t want to lose your speaking time. If you’re speaking to the living dead, you’ll need to wake them up.
Your audience can ignore you, but when they’re confronted by a team member or someone in their group chances are they won’t ignore them or resist them. They’re probably going to get involved..
Did You Hear the One . . . Humor is another way to wake up your audience and get them excited. Humor may not be your forté, but we all have natural humor. Often times when I’m on stage people laugh at what I say. I’m not a comic, and I never will be, but you can develop it. If you’ve got it, flaunt it. Use it. Test it out.
One thing I know about humor, is that it’s all about timing. If my timing’s off, I won’t get a laugh. I pay attention when I’m saying the humorous part of my presentation. When people laugh, I make a mental note and keep that in there. If it flops, then I cut it out the next time. When you’re doing your presentation, really pay attention to what works especially when it comes to humor.
Come On Everyone and Dance: Another way to change the state of your audience is with dancing.
In my early days when I was on the speaking circuit, I’d lug in my boom box, set it up, turn on the music, and we’d all dance. That changed the state, no matter what. One day, I forgot my boom box. How was I going to get these people up? I had to rise to the occasion and get these people up, and paying attention to me only. I said, “good morning everyone!” and used my attention grabbing statements: “How many of you want to be a powerful speaker? How many of you not only want to be a powerful speaker, but want to be one today!”
When you pick these techniques, you want to pick what‘s right for your audience, what’s right for you and right for your speech. You have to have them in your pocket so when you have to raise the dead, you’ve got them.
2. Change Their Mental State
Sometimes they are the living dead not because of something physical, but because of something mental; they’re completely in their head. They’re worried about something. We all have worries. We all have stress. You need to help your audience have a 30-minute diversion so they can enjoy what you’re presenting. How do you do that?
One of the best ways is to ask your audience questions. Make sure you know exactly who you’re talking to and who’s in our audience. Sometimes I ask, how many are recovering corporate executives? That way I can see who are my corporate people. You can find out a lot of information about your audience just by asking them. Oftentimes I ask them where they would go to speak. “Chamber of Commerce!” I throw them candy. “Networking groups, schools, churches!” I give them an opportunity to have an escape.
When you ask them a question, they can’t be thinking about something else. The brain is wired to want to solve a problem, to seek a solution.
Use the Word “Imagine”: “Imagine you’re a speaker and you are up on stage.” You can ask them to close their eyes, but I recommend you tell them to keep them open. The last thing you want to do is put someone to sleep who you’re trying to wake up. You might say, “Imagine you are on stage and there is thundering applause.” Again, they’re thinking and changing their mental and physical state.
“Imagine that you are in optimum health;” “imagine yourself running a marathon;” “imagine waking up 20 years younger;” or “imagine you’re rich.” This is powerful. This is a NLP technique. It works. “Imagine who you are already!”
Do An Exercise: I’m talking about a mental exercise to change their mental state.
It might be one they do by themselves. In other words, think about all the topics that you’re passionate about and write them all down now. Think of 10 sales techniques that you would like to learn over the next 30 days. Think of 5 marathons you want to run. Whatever it is; it takes them out of the physical room and put them into their own room which is their own mind.
3. Change Their Soulful State
Wherever their soul is you want to get them in touch with it. Get them out of their body, out of their head, and get them back into their heart, or back to their center. It’s not easy because people are so in their head, but at least you can try.
With this group of women I mentioned above, I had to get their attention first by changing their state. I needed to change their physical state and their soulful state. When I walked in, they seemed like a very unhappy group. I had to reach their heart and their soul.
Meditation: One way is through meditation, if it applies to what you do. It’s not a good fit for me. I’d need at least 30 minutes to do it right, but it is one method to get down into their soul. For those who are good at leading meditation, it would be good for you. If you are not good at it, or don’t have any experience, I don’t recommend it.
Emotional Stories: If your audience is like the living dead, use emotional stories that will connect them with their own heart. Sometimes I share a story that I wasn’t planning to share. I’ll say, “I wasn’t planning to share this, but I feel like there is someone who needs to hear it.” Just by pre-framing it, it opens the heart of the listener. Why? Because they’re thinking, “is it me? Do I need to hear that story?”
You should have emotional stories in your tool box that you can pull out when the time comes. I have my Egypt story, my pyramid story, my camel story, and stories about fear. Because a lot of people have fear of public speaking, we have to knock it down in order to get to the center, or to the heart. Oftentimes, I share how I had fear, broke through that fear and what was on the other side was more awesome, beautiful and spiritual than I could imagine, i.e., because I broke through the fear. Have those kind of emotional stories that will open the heart of your listeners.
Reveal Your Soul: Be authentic. Be real. Be intimate with your audience. I’m talking about you opening your heart and showing them your soul. I’m not saying to go on stage, share your darkest secret and become a blubbering speaker. Maybe you made some bad decisions; you went bankrupt, lost everything, but you built it back up.
I was working with a client and his story. He came to this country with only $50 in his pocket; and he’d borrowed that, and he flew into Miami from his country because it was the cheapest ticket he could get. That’s what I’m talking about. Open yourself up and bare your soul. These aren’t things that are going to go deep enough to hurt your or someone else. But tell the truth! I’m talking about stories like that. Here’s where I was, and through my journey I learned, and I got things, and I appreciated things, and I’m back on top.
Open up your soul and let people see you, at least a little bit. Maybe at first it’s like sticking out your toe. Four or five years ago, you would not have seen this part of me on the stage. Now you’re aware. Each speech, I want you to practice opening your heart just a little bit more. Let your audience in a little bit. Be real, authentic and intimate with your audience, and that will change their soul state, and they will fall in love with you.
Arvee Robinson is a Master speaker trainer, international speaker, and author. She teaches business owners, service professionals, and entrepreneurs how to use public speaking as a marketing strategy so they can attract more clients, generate unlimited leads and grow their businesses, effortlessly. She teaches a proven speaker system for delivering persuasive presentations, and easy formulas for creating killer elevator speeches and magnetic self-introductions. Arvee has helped hundreds of individuals to win clients and close more sales every time they speak. As a high-energy motivational speaker, Arvee has shared the stage with speaking giants such as Mark Victor Hansen, Joel Bauer, Loral Langemeier, Chris Howard, Dave Lakhani, and many more. Arvee offers private coaching, workshops, home study courses and weekly tele-classes. Her persuasive speaker training programs transform ordinary business owners into superstars in their industry.
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