I just watched someone else’s presentation and I have to rant a bit. One of my pet peeves happened again and it might happen to you one day. So authors, please read on to prepare yourself, but what I’m really hoping is that your presentation hosts see this, too.
When you are invited to speak in front of a group, the host is usually very welcoming and will introduce you warmly with a paragraph you provided or which they wrote themselves. They may even use the phrase “and now please welcome, [your name here]!” Then you’re on your own.
In a previous post, I suggested memorizing the beginning and end of your presentation while keeping the middle rehearsed-but-conversational. A stumble or two during the main part of your speech will be forgotten, but folks are more likely to remember your opening and closing.
It’s important to grab your audience’s attention right away, so a work-shopped and familiar opening helps you look and feel more confident. Then a practiced closing lets you end on a high note so folks go away eager to buy your book and tell others about you.
Here’s where it can all go wrong.
Your closing remarks will naturally prompt applause, which is an obvious time to get off the stage. Many of us, however, find that the audience wants to ask questions afterwards. A few questions are great and are usually of interest to everyone. But then the questions start becoming more specific and a couple of people have places to go and they try to slip away “quietly” which is distracting to everyone and your high-note ending kind of fizzles away.
Here’s where we could use the host’s help.
Let’s say you finish your presentation up strong and the audience applauds. Either you or the host can say that you will take a few questions, but after a VERY short while, the host should step in and remind folks that you will be in the back with your books where you will be happy to take more questions. A “thank you” signals another round of applause which dismisses you from the stage and gives the audience permission to leave.
The assistance of an attentive host is a huge asset because when you are all pumped up from “performing” and intent on giving your audience the best of you, it’s disconcerting to see people sneak away and it’s really hard to interrupt your “fans.”
But you may not be lucky enough to have a host watching out for you, so be prepared to rescue yourself. Plan to answer just a few questions and have a little speech practiced that you can use to excuse yourself. Try something like “I want to be mindful of your time, but I’m happy to continue the conversation in the back. Thank you again for coming today!”
After watching yet another poor soul stuck behind the podium today, I just had to say something in the hopes of fixing this problem. Thanks for letting me rant. That’s it from me. But I’m happy to take questions in the “comments” field.