Sunday, November 8, 2009

Welcome Your Guests


So often we begin a speech by thanking the audience or someone in the audience for asking us to speak. This small (arguably unnecessary gesture) perhaps unknowingly puts the speaker in the mindset of being a guest. The speaker subsequently must ingratiate himself to the "hosts" - the audience.

What happens?

The speaker pulls back. After all, it's difficult to fully be yourself when you're a guest in someone's home. Particularly, if you don't know the hosts well.

Stephanie Scotti, author of the blog, Speaker Notes, offers this excellent piece of advice:

Transform the Room... Close your eyes for a moment and shift your thinking. This is no longer a ballroom, or a boardroom, or a trade show hall…it’s your living room. And the audience, each and every one of them, is a welcomed guest.

Just as you would greet guests arriving at your home, adopt the same attitude in welcoming listeners to your presentation. This simple change of perspective allows you to project confidence and manage the dynamics of the room. Because, after all, you’re the host.


From the Green Room: Instead of thanking the audience for inviting you, welcome them to your presentation.
In an instant, you are no longer a guest, but rather the host - with a wonderful presentation to offer each of your guests who have come to hear you.

14 comments:

nick morgan said...

This is very good advice. Avoid the verbal "throat clearing" that so many speakers use to get started ("I'm really happy to be hear today in Cleveland....")because it doesn't add anything -- and just highlights your nervousness. Instead, begin with a story or a factoid or a framing statement that puts the audience right into your world and message -- like a host instead of a guest. (I like that idea.)

Anonymous said...

I too love this change of perspective. Most problematic, I think, is when the speaker thanks or acknowledges specific audience members by name, thus, in a stroke, creating distance between the speaker and the rest of the audience which, on some level, now sees itself as a sort of second class citizenship. Any suggestions for how to get around the conundrum of wanting to be gracious to one's inviters or other special guests without creating that two class divide?

Sarah Gershman said...

Nick - Thank you for your comments. I like the idea of getting right into it and immediately putting the audience into your world - as a host would!

Sarah

Sarah Gershman said...

Great question about thanking people by name. Often I think this is unavoidable, as there are people in the audience who may have put a lot of effort into the event. Let's go with the host metaphor - and imagine that certain guests contributed to the meal - (brought wine, flowers, food, etc.) How would you thank them without making the other guests feel second class?

John Watkis said...

Hi Sarah,

This will work in some situations and backfire in others. When an audience comes to an event I have promoted, I'm the host. When I'm invited to speak at an association meeting or conference, I'm a guest. Neither "role" has anything to do with my level of confidence. My preparation determines my level of confidence.

Sometimes it's more effective to start with "throat clearing". At other times it's ineffective. As I point out in my blog, you can't start every speech the same way. It all depends on the audience and the event. http://www.wellwrittenwellsaid.com/successfulspeechesblog/?p=55

John Watkis
Speechwriter/Consultant/Speaker

Sarah Gershman said...

John - Thank you for your thoughtful comments. While it is true that you can never start a speech the same way, I still think the host metaphor works - even if you are invited to speak. Changing your mindset (and it's only mental) to that of "host" creates a much more welcoming and confident environment - no matter how well-prepared you are. Suddenly, you are giving the audience a gift - rather than allowing them to do you the favor of listening to you.

John Watkis said...

The "thank you" doesn't mean the audience is doing you a favor by listening to you. It could be a "thank you" for their time. Even if you're a host, you thank people for coming to your event, don't you?

It could be a "thank you" for the work they went through to arrange the event.

Saying "thank you" is a being polite and showing good manners.

You don't have to thank everyone and their grandmother, or even say thank you to start every speech, but it is the better way in some speeches.

Sarah Gershman said...

Again, it's a question of mindset. For some speakers (and of course this does not have to apply to everyone), saying "welcome" instead of "thank you" may change the energy in a positive direction. If it doesn't work, by all means don't use it!

Evgenya said...
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Evgenya Shkolnik said...

This is a great tip! Thanks. I'll try it out next time I give a talk in a couple of weeks. I suspect feeling like a host is much easier when giving an hour-long talk than when one is giving a short talk in conference session for example.

Sarah Gershman said...

Thank you, Evgenya. I think this can work no matter how long your talk is. When you're speaking on a panel, for example, you might not actually welcome the audience - but if you get into the mindset of being a host, the audience will pick up on it.

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