Speaking One-to-a-Large-Group

What is a large group? For me it is, 30-300.  This is because you have just graduated to a size where you can guarantee that a third of the audience won’t like you or your message for some reason beyond your control: their cat died yesterday, they hate your clothes, you look like their fifth-grade math teacher, or their lunch is disagreeing with them. Another third is probably partially sold on your point of view or won’t have trouble with what you are going to say. And the last third is genuinely trying to figure out if you have something of value. You are speaking to this last third.

Provide clear information through stories, giving them the kind of information that you know they are looking for (because you did your homework by reading their Web site, talking to their boss, and interviewing several of them in advance of your presentation). Make it easy for them to decide.

You are not there to convince them but to make it easy for them to evaluate your offer. If you have a genuinely good idea (you do, or you wouldn’t be taking the time to read this book), all you have to do is lay out your aspirations and honestly provide the data you have when they ask for it.

Find creative ways to encourage interaction. With a group this size, you will need to ask questions that are relevant and can demand a response before a significant crowd—questions like, “Is it true that geographical distribution is your most difficult challenge?” This safe yes-or-no question is immediately followed up by an open-ended query: “And what are the next two priorities you must address to succeed?”

I always request a wireless lav (a lavaliere—a small, lapel microphone) or headset so that I am free to walk about, being responsive to and engaged with the audience. I dispense with a podium, stand, or anything else that physically comes between my listeners and me. I use all aspects of my instrument (a theatrical term indicating the capacity of your entire body to express) to connect and communicate. With a larger audience, this full engagement increases the impact and effectiveness of your communication.


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