Blaming The Audience
Have you ever seen a speaker angrily scold an audience – for something that was his fault?
A few weeks ago, I attended a speech by a well-known political strategist (out of respect for the client who hired him, I will not name him here).
In fairness, the strategist was one of the best public speakers I’ve seen. He grabbed the audience’s attention during his first sentence and kept it until he left the stage. But he twice accused the audience of sitting too far away to see his PowerPoint slides, even challenging a woman toward the back of the room to read the text at the bottom of a slide to the entire room.
A professional speaker should know better.
No speaker should ever create slides that can’t be seen in the farthest reaches of the room. The speaker had a few alternatives. He could have:
1. Broken it Up
By dividing each slide into several slides, the speaker could have ensured each slide would contain less information.
2. Showed Only The Highlights
By listing only the most critically, important data on the slides, the speaker could have verbally alluded to the less vital information.
3. Left It Behind
By banishing the less important information from his talk altogether, the speaker could have saved that material to verbally fill in the details if needed.
All three options would have allowed him to increase the font size of the presentation, allowing even people in the hallway to see it with ease.
Here’s the bottom line: If you need to keep shrinking your font to make your information fit on a slide, you probably have too much information. Eliminate some text. Aim for a PowerPoint font size of at least 28.
By doing so, you’ve not only saved the audience some eye strain, but you’ve spared them a misdirected lecture, as well.
Hi Brad. Interesting story. Can you also please give more detail on what the speaker did right? How did he manage to capture the audience with the first sentence, and keep their attention throughout? Thanks
Thank you for your nice e-mail. The speaker did many things right, but here are three things that immediately come to mind:
1. He got our attention at the very beginning by unexpectedly starting his talk from the back of the room in the center row. It forced everyone to turn, changing them from passive observers to active participants.
2. He moved around the room a lot – but his movement had purpose. When he was on the stage, he was always out in the open, never behind a lectern.
3. Perhaps most importantly, he remained “in the moment” with the audience the entire time. He reacted to things that happened in the room with humor (e.g. responding to an audience member’s silly cell phone ring tone). He engaged the audience by asking specific questions, often by asking an entire row to answer the question in a word or two. Finally, he divided up the question and answer section, taking three or four questions every 20 minutes or so, then re-claiming the floor and moving on with his prepared remarks.
Hope that helps. Thanks for reading the blog!