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Tell a joke to break the ice?

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I heard on a webinar that one way to “break the ice” with an unresponding audience is to tell a joke. Well, perhaps if the joke is related to the topic at hand, a joke My recommendation would not to tell a joke, especially if the joke is unrelated to the topic.

First, if the audience appears to be nonresponsive, they may simply be so entralled in your message that they have no time to respond. Though unlikely, it is possible. Perhaps, one or a few audience members are busy texting.

On the other hand, if the audience is not attentive, I would suggest that you ask yourself the following questions:

  1. Am I giving a lecture?
  2. Am I monotone?
  3. Am I making direct eye contact with individuals?
  4. Am I presenting to or conversing with the audience?
  5. Am I standing like a manikin?
  6. Am I pacing back and forth?
  7. Am I reading from my notes or the PowerPoint slide?

If you answer yes to any of these questions, you should consider changing your approach to the audience.

  1. I’ve seen many booooooooooorrriiiiiiiiiiiiiiing presentations, and I have given a few because the speaker seemed simply spurring out facts, figures, and details. These may be quite important; however, not necessarily in a presentation. First, the audience is usually more interested in the benefits of a report, rather than facts or figures. Additionally, all the facts, fighes, charts, details and everything else can be provided for in a handout.
  2. Even though Data, on Star Trek II was essentially a robot, he varied his voice. Adjusting your voice will help to keep the audience alert and attentive.
  3. Contrary to common belief, eye contact with your audience does not increase nervousness. Think about it? When you are conversing with your friends, don’t you generally make eye contact? Additionally, making eye contact with one individual, then another, tends to replicate conversations. Thus, instead of facing a whole audience, you are speaking to several individuals, one at a time.
  4. Similarly, presenting to an audience does not engage the audience, i.e. there is little interaction between the presenter and the audience. As when you are making eye contact and focusing on each individual, rather than the entire group, you will be conversing with, and thus engaging your audience.
  5. If you must present from behind the lectern, you can still add gestures and facial expressions (unless you are around 5′ 2″ like my wife) during your presentations. You may also be able to back up a bit and/or move to one side of the lectern or the other. Some people may present in the open; however, they will stand in one place, like a lump on the log. Attempt to move a bit, at least one or two steps in either direction.
  6. Another distracting activity for some presenters is pacing back and forth, back and forth, and back and forth with no purpose in mind. Essentially, if you have the opportunity to move out from behind the lectern, then your movement should have purpose and meaning.
  7. The most annoying thing from the audience’s perspective is reading from the screen or from your notes. Use notes if you must; however, always focus on the audience.

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