1. Never speak with your back to your audience. Your voice carries in the direction you are facing, and if you are not facing your audience when you speak, then naturally, your audience cannot hear you. Always face your audience when you speak so everyone hears every delicious word you have to offer.
2. Never say ...
a. "Does that make sense?": Offer your own clarification to ensure it makes sense, or have the audience engage in an activity to ensure it makes sense. (And drop me a private line if you want to know exactly the right way to design audience engagement opportunities.)
b. "Did everyone hear that?": Repeat yourself. If you feel the need to ask that, then don't. Replace it instead with repeating the message, especially if what was said was vitally important - important enough for you to want to ask "Did everyone hear that?" Say it more than once because 100% of the audience is never listening at 100% capacity 100% of the time.
c. "Everybody knows what 'X' is, right?" or "Everybody knows who 'Y' is, right?" or something to that effect: It sounds like anyone who does not know X or Y is inadequate, ill-informed or uninformed, or not in-the-know, and no one ever wants to feel that way. However, those types of questions give that impression. Seldom will anyone speak up and say he/she does know "X" or "Y" but will suffer in silence, wondering if he/she is alone. If you feel compelled to ask that, then again, it's a sure sign you need to spell it out. And avoid saying "I'm sure you all know …" for the same aforementioned reasons. Just state it.
d. "You probably don't know this" or "Most people don't realize.": There may be people in the audience who DO know or who DO realize. So instead of assuming - and verbalizing this assumption - people are not knowledgeable, say, "Did you know ...?" Avoid telling the audience it does not know something.
3. Never let the audience start a conversation or any other activity without you giving clear directions for the conversation or activity at least twice and without letting everyone know how much time is allotted for the conversation or activity.
4. Never begin speaking until you are standing completely still and you have everyone's attention. If you need help with getting everyone's attention, you can ...
a. say, "Clap once if you can hear my voice," then also clap yourself; then say, "Clap twice if you can hear my voice," then clap two times (you will hear more people in the audience join you at this point); then say, "Clap three times if you can hear my voice," and clap three times.
b. use a bell. If there are conversations underway because you directed them to take place, then ring the bell ONCE to get everyone's attention.
c. call for everyone's attention with "May I have your attention?" then stand silently at the front and center of the room with a smile on your face. Do not say anything else. Do not continue with your presentation. Everyone will get the message that you have no plans to talk over people, and in short order, many will catch on and will tell others to be quiet.
5. Never call on someone to share information without alerting him/her beforehand. This is different from calling on an audience member to share information that was just discussed with other colleagues in the audience as part of an activity that everyone else has completed. In this instance, all are similarly situated. However, when you call on someone out of the blue to share without allowing for any preparation, oftentimes it can unfairly catch the person off-guard.
You've got this!
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Photograph credit: SH Lam