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Presentation attendance is important for keeping sharp and up to date on topics and techniques. With that in mind, I often attend seminars and presentations on a variety of topics, Clickshare The Cse 200 in Johannesburg from business development and consultancy to investing and asset management. Most recently, I attended a seminar from David Lerner and Associates on “Building and Protecting your Assets.” While this is clearly a sales seminar, looking to create a buying impulse, it also provided great information and food for thought. Mostly, however, I want to discuss the techniques used in the seminar, as I found it to be very well done.

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I will begin by saying that David Lerner is a very polished and entertaining speaker. His use of technology was well integrated with his manner of walking the room. Three video screens were used, Clickshare Powerpoint Presenter View One large central screen and two smaller screens to allow the viewers at the peripheries to see the information clearly as well. On top of this, a wireless sound system was used to project the speaker’s voice effectively. The facility was a moderate sized convention center/ballroom, with a crowd that I would estimate at 600 people.

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Utilizing an array of speakers connected to a wireless receiver, and a handheld wireless microphone, every word was able to be heard clearly. Volume and clarity are both key factors for successful speakers. However, it was not so much the technical details which made this a good presentation, it was the presentation style. Mr. Lerner made several overtures to connect with the audience effectively. First, he was adept at using humor, which is often touted as a public speaking tool.

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I personally liked his references to Mel Brooks’ movies, as I am a huge fan of his work. Bringing the audience back to those references at points throughout the presentation also created memory points for the audience. This is a fantastic technique for getting an audience to remember key points, Click And Share Barco without seeming like a pushy teacher. Mr. Lerner also connected with the audience by sharing details and experiences from his personal life. Humanizing yourself as a speaker should not be discounted; an audience is far more likely to “buy in” to a speaker’s pitch if they see him as one of their own rather than an outsider. Sharing stories that the audience can relate to is crucial, but a speaker must know the audience well enough to make this work. Both the humor and personal connection set the audience at ease and allow for a greater capacity to listen and accept what is being shared without a highly guarded affect.

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Presentation attendance is important for keeping sharp and up to date on topics and techniques. With that in mind, I often attend seminars and presentations on a variety of topics, from business development and consultancy to investing and asset management. Most recently, I attended a seminar from David Lerner and Associates on "Building and Protecting your Assets." While this is clearly a sales seminar, looking to create a buying impulse, it also provided great information and food for thought. Mostly, however, I want to discuss the techniques used in the seminar, as I found it to be very well done.

I will begin by saying that David Lerner is a very polished and entertaining speaker. His use of technology was well integrated with his manner of walking the room. Three video screens were used, One large central screen and two smaller screens to allow the viewers at the peripheries to see the information clearly as well. On top of this, a wireless sound system was used to project the speaker's voice effectively. The facility was a moderate sized convention center/ballroom, with a crowd that I would estimate at 600 people.

Utilizing an array of speakers connected to a wireless receiver, and a handheld wireless microphone, every word was able to be heard clearly. Volume and clarity are both key factors for successful speakers. However, it was not so much the technical details which made this a good presentation, it was the presentation style. Mr. Lerner made several overtures to connect with the audience effectively. First, he was adept at using humor, which is often touted as a public speaking tool.

I personally liked his references to Mel Brooks' movies, as I am a huge fan of his work. Bringing the audience back to those references at points throughout the presentation also created memory points for the audience. This is a fantastic technique for getting an audience to remember key points, without seeming like a pushy teacher. Mr. Lerner also connected with the audience by sharing details and experiences from his personal life. Humanizing yourself as a speaker should not be discounted; an audience is far more likely to "buy in" to a speaker's pitch if they see him as one of their own rather than an outsider. Sharing stories that the audience can relate to is crucial, but a speaker must know the audience well enough to make this work. Both the humor and personal connection set the audience at ease and allow for a greater capacity to listen and accept what is being shared without a highly guarded affect.

The presentation itself consisted of information presented orally through Mr. Lerner and other speakers, visually through a PowerPoint presentation, and physically through audience participation (question and response). This allows for the greater learning and interest, as it touches on multiple learning styles. The investment strategies discussed were put into simple terms and graphics which could be easily understood. The presentation was laid out logically in a manner that was easy to follow and built from the bottom up. Basically, there are three levels of investment to consider, base-level - safe investment with moderate returns, mid-level - some what greater risk and slightly higher returns and top-level - higher returns and higher risk.

The base-level should be the largest investment amount, consisting of the monies which cannot be risked; the housing, food, and health cost funds. I will not discuss the investment vehicles mentioned as this is not a sales article for the company, but rather a discussion of the presentation techniques used. The mid-level should contain less of the funds, but should only be invested in after the necessities have been covered with safe investments. This level consists of relatively safe investments but carries some risk of loss or lowered returns but a higher projected return. The top-level consists of the smallest portion of the investments, and includes stocks, mutual funds and potential high returns but much higher risk of loss as well. This level should only be filled with cash which can be lost without harming the investor's lifestyle appreciably.

As an MBA with an educational background in finance and economics as well as marketing, the strategies fit well with my own views and do make sense. However, even without that education, the presentation was clear enough and concise enough to be easily understood. I think that this was one of the key strengths of the presentation, it provided information which was interesting for knowledgeable participants but also simple enough for novices to grasp easily. It played effectively for the full range of the audience.

This explanation of the strategy was augmented with specific numbers on returns delivered by various product components. Here, audience participation was a key part of the presentation as well. Many audience members were clients of David Lerner Associates already and had investments in specific products. Their enthusiasm for the products and affirmation of the returns boosts the credibility of the presentation. Due to the numbers of people, it is not likely that they were plants, although that thought would cross my mind otherwise. I should also disclose that I was there because I know people who work for the company and I have the utmost respect for the character of those individuals.

Lastly, certain tools were used to keep audience members from leaving prior to the end of the presentation. First, food and refreshments were served prior to the presentation. This ensured that the participants were comfortable and not thinking about getting food or being otherwise distracted by hunger or thirst. Secondly, desserts were served, and coffee was made available at the close of the presentation. This allowed for the associates to mingle with the participants after the presentation to set up appointments and to discuss the presentation details. This reinforces to presentation and allows for clarification of details where needed.

It also attempts to lock in clients while they are still focused on the presentation material. Finally, a drawing was done at the close of the seminar, after the dessert and mingling, for several items. Only those present would be able to win items. Therefore, an incentive was given to remain in attendance until the end, and the vast majority of those who came for the presentation did remain. As noted, I found this to be a well done presentation and wanted to share these techniques, as they can be readily employed by others to enhance their own presentations and seminars.

Tips While Choosing a Meeting Room

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The arrangement of chairs, the sound system, the lighting and the overall climate of the room can make a big difference in the way a public speaking engagement is received. You may not think you have much control over these items, but think again, because you do.

If you have prior access to the room where your speech will be held you should always get there as early as possible. I have never had a speaking engagement where everything about the room set-up was perfect. There is always something amiss. Expect minor problems to be the norm.

I have had many public speaking engagements where I had a few minor problems. The sound man who had the mixing board, wireless microphone and tape deck didn't show up. The videographer was delayed with a speeding ticket and showed up 10 minutes before the program was to start. That caused a 40 minute delay. Fifteen minutes into the program the video projector, an integral part of the program, conked-out. So what did I do? I had a back- up, hand-held microphone with a long cord with me so I plugged it into the meeting room's public address system. One of the other speakers had a portable cassette player so we played the opening music on the cassette player and put the microphone in front of the speaker. It wasn't the best sound, but it got the job done. I had a good quality home-grade video camera there that was supposed to shoot secondary footage. It was just being moved to the main camera position when the video technician showed up. The video projector quitting on me was a different story.

All the other problems were handled before the public speaking engagement actually started. Since the projector was to be used throughout the day something had to be done and done quickly. I told the audience to take a five minute break and we all scrambled to check out the projector. We determined that it was nothing that we could fix fast, so I made plans to bring in several monitors arranged as back-up. This was not as good as an 8 foot by 8 foot screen, but it would have to do. While we were checking out the video projector one of the seminar participants was watching us and overheard my decision to bring in the monitors. He said, 'Listen, I've got a video projector at my office. I can go get it and have it set up in 20 minutes.'" He did, and I gave him a $90.00 audio tape album for his trouble.

These were obviously more than minor problems, but being prepared with back-up equipment and being in the room early enough to do something about the problems saved the day. A little help from a friendly participant didn't hurt either.

Create an Atmosphere Conducive to Laughter and Interaction.

Unless you are using slides or video projection you want the room lights at maximum intensity. Half your effectiveness when speaking with humor is realized because the audience can see you. The audience wants to see your face. They want to see your expressions. They want to see your body language. It is easier to establish a bond when the public speaker and the audience can see each other which is one good reason to avoid reading your speech from behind a lectern.

I recently attended a speech in Washington D.C. by a 'big name' author. He conducted a three hour slide show with no breaks. He was totally 'in the dark' behind a lectern. I am an audience watcher so I know he never connected with the audience.

Besides being in the dark the man made several other inexcusable mistakes that indicated little regard for his audience. Three hours is too long to go without a break. Starting at the 1 1/2 hour mark people were constantly getting up to go to the restroom or getting refreshments. Before the speech the man was in the room with three hundred people with a bored nasty look on his face. I tried to make eye contact with him when he walked by me and he stared right through me.

What could this speaker have done to dramatically increase the effectiveness of his public speaking engagement? Since I'm supposed to be talking about lighting right now, I will. All he had to do was put a soft light on himself that lit him or at least lit his face. A low intensity light placed properly would not have affected the visibility of the projection screen at all, but would have helped him connect with the audience. They would have been able to see his face. As it was, all they heard was a voice coming from the darkness.

The other problems I mentioned were not lighting related, but I'll tell you how to fix them now anyway. Take care of your audience's basic needs. Three hours is too long to go without a break. Schedule a short break and you won't have audience members interrupting the speaking engagement every few minutes.

If you are nervous or scared or bored before a public speaking engagement don't let the audience know. This presenter would have been better off hiding from the audience rather than alienating them with his sourpuss face. If you're nervous or scared, go out and greet audience members. It will make both of you feel better. If you can't do that, stay hidden until it is time to start.

It was a shame this presenter had no basic public speaking skills because his content was excellent. I'm sure his book sales suffered at that event.

SEATING

Seating arrangements are a critical part of any successful public speaking engagement and are especially important for humorous speeches. As a professional public speaker you must consider not only interaction, but safety and comfort parameters as well.

The best situation is when you have total control over the seating style and set-up of the room. For this discussion I'll be using laughter and interaction synonymously. Semi-circular and straight theater style arrangements do both enjoy one advantage. Both these arrangements have the audience members sitting very close together. This togetherness allows laughter to pass immediately from one person to the other. You will even see audience members elbowing and slapping their immediate neighbor on the knee.

By far the best seating arrangement for laughter is semi-circular. When public speaking audience members are seated on a curve they can look to their left or right and see the faces of each person in the row. Laughter is contagious. Many people will laugh just because they see others laughing. In a straight-row theater style, when an audience member looks left or right, all that she sees is the ear of the next person in the row. If that next person is not laughing, the other audience member is less likely to laugh. If you change the seating arrangement to semi-circular where each audience member can see everyone's face in the row, you will create a much higher likelihood that that person will see someone else laugh. As the speaker you will have a much higher chance of having your audience enjoying laughter because of this seating style.

Audience comfort is another advantage of semi-circular seating. The room can be set to face each chair directly toward the area where the presenter will be standing. This is much better than straight theater style where the audience members at the end of a row must turn their heads sharply to see the presentation. This creates an uncomfortable audience member in a very short time. An uncomfortable audience member is less likely to laugh; more likely to tune out all together. If the bulk of the presentation consists of looking at a screen you could point all the chairs at the screen instead of where the speaker will be standing. Do whatever it takes to keep your audience comfortable.

Always attempt to be as close as you can to the first row in whatever seating arrangement you have. Distance between you and the audience is a definite barrier to interaction. Don't use a riser unless it is absolutely necessary for you to be seen.

You may get some resistance from room set-up personnel who are not used to semi-circular seating arrangements, but don't give up. If you get to the presentation site early you can usually make changes yourself. Remember--you are the one who will look bad if the speech doesn't go well. No one will ever blame the set-up crew.

Sometimes changing seating arrangements will not be possible. Shoot for the best when you can and be persistent. On the other hand, don't be distracted if you end up with a poor seating arrangement. If you are prepared and have a powerful message, you will still do a good job.

If you have to speak in a situation where the seats are fixed, don't despair. If the seats can't move, you can. Be more animated and move around. This will cause the audience to move their heads to see you, thus creating more interaction and increasing the chance they will see another face that is laughing. Another trick you can use if you're stuck with fixed seating is to ask the audience to choose a new seat after they come back from a break. Anytime you use this technique you must tell the audience why you are doing it and you must give the instructions before the audience takes a break. American audiences have a 'homing instinct' for the same seat they started with and you'll upset them if you snatch it away for no reason.

For example, tell them that part of the reason to come to a speech is to meet and interact with new people and by changing seats this goal will be accomplished easier.

Another thing to watch out for is a situation where seating arrangements in an organization have been established over a long period of time. If you come in as the 'new kid on the block' and try to make drastic changes you may upset many 'old timers.' Make changes slowly and always tell them why.

Additional Seating Tips

When possible set the presentation to the long side of the room so the last row is as close to the speaker as possible. Avoid long narrow rooms which put audience members far from the speech as if they were in bowling alley. People prefer to sit by aisles.

Avoid chairs next to walls. Audience members will feel trapped. Aisles should get bigger as they get nearer the exits because they must accommodate more people.

Seat for least distraction--no audience member should have to cross more than six people to get to a seat.

Make people sit as close as possible to the front. Force them to front with reserved signs on back tables or keep chairs stacked until all front rows are full. Don't tip chairs up to reserve seats or force people forward because they may trip over the legs of the chairs.

GET A SOUND SOUND SYSTEM If it is hard to hear, people won't listen. As a humorous public speaker you must have an excellent sound system because most of the time you will be talking while your audience is laughing. Stand-up comics are different because they tell a joke, then people laugh (they hope). They tell another joke, then people laugh. A humorous public speaker will be rolling right along making points, showing product features, telling stories, and dropping one- liners and must be heard all the while.

A humorous presentation demands a better sound system than a serious talk. In a serious talk, words can be missed and the main message can still be very clear. In humor it doesn't work that way. If key words are missed in a joke or story it will ruin the humor. No one will laugh and you will look like a giant goober.

The need for a thorough sound check is another good reason to be in the room early. You need to check the microphone to make sure it works. You need to check to see how far your mouth should be from the microphone. You need to know how loudly you should talk. Realize that during your check the audio level should be too loud. People will absorb the sound once they get into the room.

Make sure the sound system is carrying to all parts of the room. If someone is speaking prior to you, try to go to the back of the room to see how he/she is coming across. If you have someone at the presentation with you, have them signal from the back of the room if changes are needed in the volume of the public address system after you have started.

CLIMATE

Uncomfortable people will not listen to you. The unwritten rule is that meeting rooms are always too hot or too cold so you'll have to do your best. When setting air conditioning levels, the room should be cooler than you think it should be. The body heat of the audience will bring the room to the comfort level. Make sure it does, and be ready to make adjustments as you go. If you can't get the right temperature, make sure you acknowledge the audience's discomfort and encourage them to make the best of it. Your care for them will automatically make things a little better.

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