What do you do when you are requested to speak on a topic on which you are seriously passionate, but it is one that is obscure or one that has received little attention from your audience?
You may fear you will run the risk of talking over people's heads, and what good is that? Then, you look to the other extreme and decide you could simplify the topic; however, you do not want to talk down to your audience, creating overly elementary points, and subsequently creating for yourself (and possibly your audience) a boring experience. It is a conundrum in which you find yourself; that's for sure.
However, you can still discuss topics that are foreign to others and do it in a way that is an engaging time for everyone involved; actually, that's the beauty and a fundamental purpose of public speaking - to educate others. This just means you have to find ways to approach a topic or connect it to a topic or concept that is already familiar to your audience.
Three key questions to answer in your presentations about material that may be new to your audience are ...
1. What is it?
2. How does one start to understand it?
3. Why is it important, and why should others care?
Work to connect the unknown or the unfamiliar to what's known or familiar to the audience, and that makes it easier for the audience to make connections with your material.
Additionally, rather than ask an audience "Do you know what I mean?" ask a more meaningful question that truly tests comprehension. You see, when you ask that question, if there is indeed someone who does not know what you mean, it is highly unlikely he/she will say so because there can be some embarrassment, a feeling he/she is the only one who doesn't know what you mean. And the question has the hidden suggestion that the audience SHOULD know what you mean, so no one really wants to respond.
Instead, share 10-15 minutes of information, then have the audience do something like the following:
1. ask the audience a question directly related to what you shared such as "What caught your attention/surprised you about X," then have a one-minute conversation with a colleague seated near you;
2. ask the audience a question directly related to what you shared such as "In what ways might you use Y in your life/job/family," then write a one-minute paper response;
3. review this list of Z (you may have a list on a PPT slide or in a handout you provide), circle/identify the ones that seem applicable to you, then go for a three-minute walk with a colleague discussing how they apply to you/how you might tweak them/what's missing/what you'd add. (When the three minutes are up, ring a chime to indicate they are to return to their seats.)
This has the audience actually and actively process what you shared as opposed to passively sitting and listening to you. All that is left is to bring your personality to the presentation, and you will have everyone engaged and wanting more!
Welcome to the
BMcHAWK TALKS B.Log!
Bridgett here ... a dynamic professional speaker, university Communication faculty member, published author, and a total lover of beautiful sunsets!