The Speaker’s “New Normal”
“Every day the clock resets. Your wins don’t matter. Your failures don’t matter. Don’t stress on what was, fight for what could be.“– Sean Higgins
You have all heard the term, “The New Normal.” I suggest to you there is a Speaker’s “New Normal” also.
It is important to note though there will be some parts of your speaking that have not changed and some parts of your speaking that have changed.
Your ability to keep doing the parts of your speaking that do not change well and taking advantage of the parts of your speaking that have changed will directly impact your rise as a speaker and your pocketbook.
What Will Not Change in Your Speaking
There are foundations of speaking which will not change in the Speaker’s “New Normal.” I will talk about three of them here. There are many more.
As a speaker, you will always have to engage your audience. Before the Speaker’s “New Normal” was thrust upon you, for the most part, you were speaking in front of your audiences in-person. Now enter the Speaker’s “New Normal.” You are now in front of your laptop for the vast majority of your speaking. Your engagement with your audience now is much harder.
In the first place, it is harder to determine whether your audience is paying attention to your message. They could be multitasking unaware to you. You will find you have to use various rhetorical devices more than you would in in-person presentations to keep your audience’s attention in a virtual world. You need to use more pauses and exaggerated facial expressions and gestures to fully engage your audience.
Secondly, you will always have to have a structure to your presentations whether they are in-person or virtual. The structure of your presentation is important because it keeps your audience engaged. It takes on vital importance when you speak virtually because it is harder for you to keep your audience’s attention in a virtual world.
The structure of your presentations must have a clear opening (e.g., quotes, startling statistic, story, etc.) to grab your audience’s attention. Tell them your main points. In your body after each main point repeat all your main points up to that point to remind them of what you said. Also, have clear transitions between your main points to show how they “fit together.” Have a clear summary of your main points and then close in a memorable way (e.g., quotes, startling statistic, story, etc.).
Thirdly, you will always have to answer audience questions whether you are speaking in-person or virtually. Audience questions are your best presentation friends because they give you cues as to whether the audience received and understood your message the way you intended. Here are some suggestions concerning how to answer audience questions.
Ensure you never lack for an answer to any audience question. The way to ensure this happens is to have trusted friends ask a lot of questions during your presentation preparation.
In case a question is asked for which you do not have a ready answer, say so and, if the questioner will give you his or her e-mail at the break, you will get them an answer to the question within twenty-four hours. Then move “heaven and earth” to get them the answer within twenty-four hours.
Answer audience questions succinctly, clearly, and completely and then move on to the next audience question.
Even though you are in this new world of virtual speaking, realize the foundations of speaking do not change.
However, there will be some major parts of your speaking that will change.
What Will Change in Your Speaking
The major change you have encountered is you are speaking virtually most of the time now and, in the future, you will have a mix of speaking virtually and in-person. Talking to your audience through your computer as opposed to in-person has brought profound changes to your speaking. I will cover three of these changes.
For your audience to believe you are meeting their eyes, you must look at your computer’s camera (usually a green dot above your computer screen) and not their eyes your computer screen. This is counter intuitive for you because you know when you are speaking in-person you should always look your audience members in the eye. Train yourself to look at your camera instead of the audience member on your screen. It is harder than you think.
Audience questions and comments can now also be posted in the chat. If you have a large audience, these questions and comments can come fast. I recommend you have a separate host to summarize the chat questions and interrupt your presentation, when it is appropriate, to ask you the questions from the chat.
Although laptop presentations have become commonplace in in-person presentations, it is sometimes awkward to use the laptop to go to websites, files, etc. during your presentation. However, during your virtual presentations, it is extremely easy and quick to show any website you want. In fact, you can have them up on your computer already.
The share screen option built into all virtual platforms ensures you can show your audience anything you can show on your screen and hear on your computer including videos, podcasts, etc. This is a powerful feature ensuring your presentation is multimedia which will greatly help to keep your audience’s attention.
We looked at what will stay the same when you speak virtually and what will not. Maybe the most important thing is how you cope with changes to your virtual speaking.
How You Should Deal With Virtual Speaking
I talked to a lot of speakers over the last year. There was one thing in common to all of them – the number of their in-person bookings were cancelled or delayed a year. Most speakers to which I talked said they are shifting slowly to virtual presentations. Some said they are just going to wait until in-person presentations can happen again. I am afraid the latter group will have a long wait.
As in life, we can’t handle a speaking change until we accept it. You, as a speaker, need to accept the way you always spoke is not the way you will always speak now. If you don’t, your speaking business will atrophy and die. You need to embrace virtual speaking and make it work for you and your business to survive.
One way of embracing the change is to take advantage of what virtual speaking can allow you to do of which in-person speaking cannot.
Dale Carnegie in his famous book, “How to Win Friends and Influence People,” says the sweetest sound to anyone is his or her name. Using a person’s name engages you more with that person.
When you are delivering a virtual presentation, you already know the names of the people in your audience because they have to register for the meeting by name. In fact, it is usually in their video boxes. When you address an audience member, use their name. You will reap benefits if you do.
As was mentioned in the previous section, during your virtual presentations, it is extremely easy and quick to show any website you want, have them listen to podcasts, and show pertinent videos.
Finally, you can send the session recording to your audience, use it as a promotional video for your business, and use it as a way to evaluate your presentation.
If we use technology to just automate what we have done before, we lose the possibilities the new technology allows us to do now that we could not do before.
We have explored three aspects of how you speak now: (1) what will not change in your speaking, (2) what will change in your speaking, and (3) how you will deal with the changes in your speaking.
Most of you know I am an engineer by education and experience. In engineering school, I had a class with an English professor named Dr. Herman Estrin. He said the following about the American English language: “Language changes. Change is normal. Usage makes it correct.”
I would like to switch that around a bit for us speakers: “Speaking changes. Change is normal. Usage makes it comfortable.”
Sure, anything new you try is going to seem awkward at first. You have to realize that change is the only thing that is constant in your speaking life. However, as time goes on as you practice new methods to deliver your speaking virtually, they will become more comfortable for you and you will also see other possibilities that were not possible without the change.
Accept the change the Speaker’s “New Normal” has thrust upon you and take advantage of what you can do in your speaking now virtually which you could not do in-person.
Embrace it and use it to your advantage!
Call to Action
Become brilliant on speaking basics that will not change to constantly improve your virtual and in-person speaking
Embrace the changes in your speaking and find a way to take advantage of them
Seek change in your speaking whether virtual or in-person. Change has always been responsible for the great innovations in our world
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.”– Leo Tolstoy
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