Advice to be Heeded

What works

  • Demonstrating passion and enthusiasm for your topic
  • Using non-technical terms to explain it
  • Having your project manager who introduces you to politely ask the audience to turn off their cell phones
  • Shut off your cell phone before taking the stage!
  • Sticking to the time limit you said you would speak in

What doesn’t

  • Don’t ever talk down to the audience
  • Don’t use too much technical jargin
  • Don’t rely too much on powerpoint – they are there to hear you speak and the powerpoint is supporting your speech, it is not the speech

“Watch out for…”

  • People asking questions that either have nothing to do with your subject at hand or are trying to engage you in a controversial debate: for example, say you are giving a talk on the physics behind global warming. You may get a questioner who wants to bait you into a public fight that supports his thought that there is no such thing as global warming.
  • You will also get people who want to debate that Einstein is wrong and you are wrong, etc.
  • In both these scenarios, your job is to be polite and diffuse the situation as quickly as possible. Some possible responses to irate, irrational or extra-inquisitive audience members are:
    • “That’s a great question. Although I don’t have time to answer it right now, you bring up an interesting point.”
    • “You bring up an interesting point. I don’t have an answer right now, but I can later recommend some sources to answer your question.”

What could go wrong

  • AV – computer, LCD, microphone could fail – be ready for any of this to happen – maybe even have an extra mike on hand.
  • There’s a crying baby in the audience – not much you can do with that. Same thing with cell phones.
  • Too many people show up: this is great, in that there is great interest, but you don’t want unhappy members of the public who, because of lack of seats, have to sit on the floor, stand, or worse, can’t get in at all. So be mindful of this in reserving a space that can accommodate the right number of people. Granted, you might not realize the extent of the public’s interest until the first lecture in the series, when there is standing-room only. In this case, have a contingency plan – have extra chairs, have a closed-circuit TV situation set up in a nearby room or lobby – film the lecture and show it in real time there.
  • If the event is not well attended, do not get discouraged. Often there are conflicting events such as a movie premiere or the circus is in town.