Thursday, January 31, 2013

Generating Enthusiasm Out of Thin Air



You never quite know what state of mind the audience will be in.  After 20 years of speaking and training I have developed a good sense on it, but I still am purposeful about planning in techniques to get the audience as engaged as possible.  This is vital for two main reasons:

1. The audience walks in with baggage.  Thoughts, experiences, feelings, relationships, projects, etc. from the previous week, day or even hour.  It is your responsibility to give them a compelling reason to check out of those and into the moment.

2. The audience needs time to ramp up.  You've been (hopefully) thinking about your content and how it applies to this audience for days, weeks, even years. However, your audience is just now getting it for the first time.  They need time to get up to speed.  Taking a few moments at the first of your program to get them engaged is effective at accomplishing this.

So, what are the techniques I use consistently to generate enthusiasm from the audience for today, this program, this content, this moment, etc.? Following is my standard checklist.

Lights - Either very bright or very dark with a very bright focal point (video, stage, etc.)

Temperature - The room should feel chilly when it is empty. It depends on the size of the room/audience, but I normally ask the facility to set the temperature at 68. Colder equals higher attention.

Music - Upbeat, age appropriate, etc. Have it playing before anyone walks into the room and use it throughout your program.  I have many moments where the audience is working with a partner and I always play music while the chatting or working is going on.  (Click here to view an image of my lists.)

Seating - The closer to the front and the closer to one another the better. If you have to assign ushers, rope off sections or take out chairs, do it.  It is that influential.

Me - Be nice, even care-ismatic. You can't yell people into getting excited. Reward whatever involvement they do give. Don't say things like "come on guys - you can do better than that." Smile. Look like you are enjoying the moment. Talk quicker. Walk quicker. Look and sound excited yourself. Don't overdo it though. Develop a sensibility of how much is just enough.

Level Awareness - This one is critical.  If I am walking into an evening session, I know the enthusiasm is most likely already at a 7 or 8. My job really is to just keep them there.  However, if I am walking in to a morning session or a traditionally boring session, they might be at a 3 or 4. My job then is to get them to a 5 or 6. I need to remember that they will probably never get to a 7 or 8 and I shouldn't expect that or work to get them there.

Be Specific with Instructions - You can't just tell a group of people to get excited. You have to tell them how you want them to act. ask them to... Yell, clap, stand up, high-five your neighbor, etc. Be specific.

If you have a specific situation or group of people you commonly deal with or know is coming up and you want some ideas, just email me.  owner (at) yournextspeaker.com.  I'll reply back quickly and with some ideas.  Good luck!