For many people public speaking doesn’t come naturally and they may develop a fear largely because of the way the society puts pressure on people who are in the spotlight. However, public speaking is a skill and like any other skill it can be learned.
If you are afraid of something, the best way to get rid of it is to face it. If you face it in a controlled environment where there will be no damage to you or your reputation, you can experiment and learn quickly.
This excellent exercise helps the delegates to face one of the greatest fears a public speaker may have and overcome it.
Each delegate gives a speech to another delegate who acts as the audience while the audience shows no interest whatsoever.
What You Need
- Preparation: It’s ideal if delegates prepare a 4-minute presentation before this session or if they can go through a presentation they have given before.
- Explain that public speaking is not as difficult as it may sound. It only requires practice especially for those rare moments that might have a high impact on your presentation. One of these rare moments is to have an uninterested audience who simply doesn’t care about what you are saying. When this happens, all you have to do is to keep your cool and think on your feet trying to make your subject more interesting for your audience. An audience can be turned around by a good speaker and invariably this means you need to appeal to emotions, talk with passion, understand their needs and concerns and above all keep going.
- Divide the delegates into pairs. If you have an odd number of delegates, use a 3-member group and get two members to act as the audience.
- Now a volunteer in each pair becomes the presenter for the first round. The other person is the audience. The presenter must deliver the presentation as if delivering to an audience, i.e., not talk at, or talk to, but talk with.
- While presenting, the member of audience should act completely uninterested. She should not make any eye contact. She should look away and just appear lost in her own thoughts and not motivated by what she hears. She can even say “I don’t care!”, or “Why should I bother to know this?” The presenter should try to make it more interesting and keep going while thinking on the spot to come up with new ideas and get the attention of the audience.
- Once the first presentation is over, the pair should swap roles and carry on with another 4-minute presentation so everyone gets a chance to present.
- Make sure the delegates stay friends at the end of the exercise!
- Use a timer to keep strict timing. Presentations can easily overrun.
Explaining the Test: 10 minutes.
Activity: 10 minutes
Group Feedback: 15 minutes.
This exercise can be slightly awkward or difficult to start with but generally people get the hang of it quite quickly. After all they are facing their fears, so being scared initially is natural.
What is interesting about this exercise is how presenters quickly realise that they can keep going much more easily than first imagined. Once they understand that this is the worst that can happen to a public speaker, their confidence is boosted greatly.
Get the delegates to share their feelings both as a presenter and as the audience. Was the presenter capable of handling the situation? How did the presenter adjust based on the feedback he received? Is it likely to get an uninterested audience in their work environment? What was the most effective approach to engage the uninterested audience and bring them back?
Once delegates have gone through this exercise, you can extend the exercise to include a larger audience. Now you can get a volunteer to deliver her presentation to the whole class, and all participants can act as an uninterested audience. This is really as bad as it can get because usually there is always somebody in the crowd who is sympathetic to the presenter’s ideas. If a presenter can handle such an audience with ease then he is probably on his way to stardom!
By George @ Friday, November 26, 2010 9:33 PM
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By Peter Andrews @ Tuesday, October 11, 2011 5:09 AM
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