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It sounds unlikely, doesn't it? Most speech readers enter into a beautiful relationship with the speech notes and treat the audience as if it doesn't exist. But here's an amazingly simple device for keeping you and your audience together - even when every word is pre-written.

The key to making this device work is our natural ability to scan a few words ahead.

How to improve your connection with your audience

Here's the method:

  1. Look, in silence, at the first few words of the first sentence, lift your eyes and deliver them to the audience.
  2. Before you run out of memory, drop your eyes and continue for almost all of the rest of the sentence while looking at the paper and the audience will think you are still engaged with them!
  3. But as you approach the end of the sentence, look up and deliver the last words to the audience.
  4. On the full stop, look down in silence and start again.

Here's an example.

[Scan first words, then raise eyes to audience]
"So, if we accept this proposal..." [drop eyes and and keep speaking while reading the page]
"...we'll be accepting that Bollingthwaites, as we've known it..." [raise eyes to audience] "...will cease to exist."
[Drop eyes in silence to scan first words of new sentence. Raise eyes and speak first words directly to the audience]
"Our new owers will force us..." [drop eyes and and read looking at page] "...to abandon our current position and enter a race..." [raise eyes to audience] "...to the bottom of the market."

Get the feeling? It's very effective in keeping the audience connected.

Using silence effectively

There is a catch. Yes, you probably noticed it... the silent parts may take bit of self-control. Around the full stop, speak only when you are looking directly at the audience - not while you're moving your eyes down or up. It's well worth getting that right; the audience will award you very high credibility.

One more thing. You'll discover that for very short sentences, it will often be smoother to just keep reading while looking at the page.

It really is simple. But, like any new skill, I suggest you practise it first, to make it smooth. Try it out on a friend.

Have fun.

Michael

About Michael Brown

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Michael is a senior trainer with Skillset, based in Christchurch.

He is a leading authority on training in presentation and news media skills in New Zealand. He has special expertise in how to present emotionally charged topics to challenging audiences. Michael has trained thousands of New Zealanders and worked with people who speak on behalf of some of the country's largest organisations.

Michael is a prolific author and his books on speaking and working with the media are in their fourth editions.

Speaking Easy: how to speak to your audiences with confidence and authority

Media Easy: how to handle the news media with confidence and authority

One of Michael's books is about his family's adventures sailing in the Pacific.

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