Public Speaking and Ideal Conditions
The writer addressing an audience in 2011
There is always something that needs improvement
Do absolutely ideal public speaking conditions ever exist? I think not. In most cases a speaker can pick out a condition or three which does not particularly suit him or her. Rare, indeed, are the venue, the room set up, the audience, the audio equipment, the lighting, the temperature and the ambience, completely satisfactory as far as one’s personal taste is concerned. There is always something that needs improvement.
Conveniently venue? Parking? Someone to meet and greet?
We can look at the location and time of day. Will we get there and find a good parking spot close to the venue? Will we be able to carry any equipment we might need inside without trouble? Will it be raining? Will we be met at the door and given a host to look after us? Having everything – and I mean everything – go right is asking the impossible. So get used to it!
I think you'll see what I mean in this shot: junk everywhere.
Let's talk about our ideal audience
However, with well over a thousand presentations behind me, I am going to attempt to describe just one aspect of my ideal: the Ideal Audience. To reiterate, this is my ideal. It is highly subjective. You might not agree with all – or even any – of what I write here. However, I will give it a go. From it, I hope that you, as a less experienced speaker, might gain something that will help you.
Nowhere exactly right, I take up an optimal spot
Being an unknown has its advantages. Few preconceived notions about what you'll be like
I find that it is best if the audience knows nothing about me. In other words, I am a completely unknown quantity. This makes for audience ‘open mindedness.’ I am not prejudged. So, as a rule, if there is no one in the audience who has heard me speak before, I am at an advantage. For one thing, I’ll probably be more relaxed; no pressure to be as good as I was the last time this audience heard me.
But let’s talk about you.
An open-minded audience is what we all want.
It is better if your audience is made up of really open-minded people. Unlike a Toastmaster audience, they’re not there to be involved in any sort of evaluation where they will have to get up and talk about your performance. Hopefully, you will be the only thing on their minds when you speak. They will not be worrying about their own upcoming assignments. Ideally, they won’t be worrying whether they left the gas-cooker on or forgot to lock the front door.
Yes, that's me up there in the darkness. A spotlight would help.
Audience members can have bigger problem than their cell phone ringing.
Oh, and ideally, they’re all be in good health to the extent that no one will faint, have a stroke, or drop down dead in the middle of your performance. It’s good; too, if none of them are deaf, or even partially deaf. Don’t for a moment think that people will never have something going wrong with them in the middle of your presentation….and I’m not just talking about their mobile phone ringing and their having to leave the room. I have had a person collapse. These things happen.
The more similarities between speaker and audience, the easier it is to establish report.
An ideal audience will be made up largely of people who have had a lot of history similar to yours. They will understand your language, probably be largely of your generation, and will have no trouble in understanding not only your language but be able to comprehend any subtle nuances when you refer to certain people, places or events. They will be on your ‘wave length.’
We are talking about the ideal audience here.
Here is good, despite the staunchionls holding up the roof.
An ideal audience fills the room to capacity: no big holes.
That ideal audience will fill the venue – whatever the size – to almost maximum capacity. There will not be a lot of empty chairs. The audience will sit comfortably close to one another. They will be placed exactly the right distance from you so that you find yourself ‘among’ them even though apart. By that I mean you are close enough, given the size and proximity of the audience, to establish an intimate report. I like to be close enough to look people in the front row in the eye from no further than six or seven feet. Being able to ‘come into the personal space’ of those in the front row is important, even if you only do it fleetingly and on the rare occasion.
Distance from audience is important – very important. And it is something so many event programmers fall short on. It is one ideal that is so often not met.
The absolutely ideal environment is as rare as a desert car wash
There is so much more I could say in this essay about ideal speaking conditions but it would take a small book to do this, so I will close by stating once again: the ideal speaking environment, which takes every aspect into consideration is rarely provided. Accept it. Live with it. And keep on working at being the best speaker you can be.
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Tom Ware is a Master Storyteller. Known as 'The Prince of Storytellers, Tom has been entertaining audiences with stories for thirty years. Tom joined his fir...
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