Can Your Audience See You?
I was recently at a convention for professional communicators and public relations people. All of the speakers and all of the attendees were in the business of communicating messages well — and getting paid for it.
And yet I was struck by how many speakers seemingly didn’t care if their audience could even see them. One speaker had recently gone through leg surgery and didn’t want to stand for his hour long presentation — understandably. But, he then proceeded to sit down behind a table from a position that was impossible to see by one third of the audience because he was hidden by a large wooden lectern.
What should he have done?
#1, He should have made his primary goal ensuring that everyone in his audience could see him clearly.
#2. He could have asked for assistance in moving the lectern out of the line of sight of his audience. (The lectern served no purpose, since he wasn’t standing behind it or storing notes or a laptop on it).
#3. He could have placed two chairs in front of the lectern and in the middle of the front of the room. One for him to sit in; the other for his laptop. Then, his whole audience could have seen and heard him better.
Other speakers, with no physical infirmities, also spoke while seated at a table — again with a large wooden lectern blocking the view of the speakers to one third of the audience. These speakers could have stood while speaking, asked for the lectern to be moved, or used the wireless microphones (they were provided) to walk around the room in a comfortable manner.
Whey did these speakers stay seated at the table with their notes in front of them? Because that was more comfortable for them, and, hey, that’s what everyone else was doing, so why not?
The reason “why not” is because it’s bad for the audience. Anytime you are speaking to a group of people, it is your obligation to do everything in your power to make it easier for your audience to see you, hear you, understand you and remember you. You can never count on a moderator or organizer or conference planner to set up the room correctly or to maximize your time in front of an audience. (They are too busy with other details) You must be aggressive in doing whatever it takes to make your speech a success. When your audience sees you going to extra lengths to help them, they will respond to you even more favorably.