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Adapting a talk for a large audience

Abby Marks-Beale

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Here is a compilation of the answers to my question about how to adapt a half-day, 50-person presentation to an audience of 500.

-- Wayne "The Mango Man" Pickering

  • stay off the riser and go all around the room
  • use a little gizmo from Radio Shack that turns the overhead on and off
  • use vignettes throughout
  • always speak as only one person is in the room

-- Leslie Charles

  • treat large groups like small groups (have 'em talk in pairs instead of groups)
  • use overheads successfully if the riser is large enough -- using 24 point lettering
  • BEGIN with interaction to break the ice and keep the group feeling intimate

-- Cantu

If you use humor in your presentation, be prepared to get your laughter in waves of three. If a piece of humor works you will get your laugh. But then when you think the laughter has peaked, you get a second laugh. And then when you think that is done, there is a third laugh.

-- Linda Farley

Create exercises like:

  • Turn to the person on your right and discuss_______.
  • List 3 things in your workbook that ______.
  • Raise your hand if you_____.

If you have the option of walking into the audience (Oprah-esque), take a mike and ask the audience questions to get interaction.

One dynamic speaker that I know gets the audience up and moving to music. GRRRREAT interaction!

The last thing to do is have the audience think of or write down what they will do different as a result of hearing your speech.

-- James DeSena

  • Use a PowerPoint presentation with large screen projection
  • Have a handout with a self-assessment that you develop and that participants can discuss with each other.
  • Walk into the audience to get comments, have microphones placed into the ais les so attendees can ask questions or provide information
  • Have activities where people can speak to one or two people sitting next to them
  • Give them a model to work related to your topic. Have them work in a group of 4 or 5 on a short case study, one that you write or one based on work with clients. (Described either in a handout or displayed on the screen.)
  • Share results with them.
  • Have several people from the audience come up onto the stage and do an activity with them. Check out Bob Pike's www.creativetrainingtech.com web site.

-- Ted Kallini

The chart pad is out for this one (usethe overhead and blank transparency film, and "create" chart pad sheets as you go. You can always refer back to them later.)

For interactivity:

  • 1. Move about the room as much as possible - talk to participants one-on-one. You'll need a hand held wireless mike for this.
  • 2. If you can, set the room with round tables of 6-8. They can interact among themselves, and a bit of espirit de corps develops at each table.
  • 3. Do exercises, breaking the room down into groups of 3-6 people.

For intimacy:

  • 1. See # 1 above. This is key.
  • 2. Ask questions of the group, and get responses from all over the room. Throwing small candies helps to generate responses.
  • 3. Eye contact x 3. Find those eyes, and hold them for 3-4 seconds. or a little longer than normal. Especially focus on the back and sides of the room.

-- Michael Lee

If you're speaking to large groups you can have one row turn to another row, depending on seating arrangement or have tables work together.

Get some theatrical acting training. Your movements must be much larger for big audiences to see them, your pacing will be a bit slower and you must give broader eye contact.

-- Art Berkowitz

Use a second mic (with a mixer) for your Q&A -- integrate questions into entire presentation, so there is no special time for questions. I have found it effective to use the second mic as part of my "act". I literally run down the aisles to the questioner with a hand held cordless mic, mentioning that I feel like Geraldo. It always draws a laugh. For quick questions, you can still repeat, but many times my audience has important contributions or points to make.

Break the audience into small groups for a part of the presentation. Be careful not to do this too often. This will regain the intimacy of working with a smaller audience. Then I bring them back together to discuss the point of the exercise.

Be careful about being seen. Keep your ventures into the audience to the Q&A and during the group breakouts.

It's all in your attitude. If your style is intimate and interactive, you will be pleasantly surprised how effective you can be with larger audiences.

-- Kristin Anderson

Get more familiar and comfortable with PowerPoint projection presentations. You can't write on them like overheads, but they show up well for the large audiences. (Same as 35mm slides) Key is DON'T let the hotel A/V person adjust the lights -- they will dim them to show off the slides. Instead, choose a format (yellow letters on dark blue background, not too much type) that shows up well in a well lit room -- keep the focus on you.

Can use a flip chart with a group that size. I tell them at the start, "You won't be able to read what I write. I use the flip chart to keep track of your questions and comments so that I can be sure to address them."

-- Tim Wright

Use handouts with only one or two points on a page. Clearly mark each page with a clever/brief heading and a large page number. This is like your "flip chart" in their laps.

Do your "flip charting" on blank acetates only if screen and overhead projection is large enough. This works only with a really large screen, clearly visible to everyone in the audience.

-- Barbara Hemphill

Include exercises they can do with a person sitting next to them -- or exercises they do alone, and then share their results with another person.

Keep in mind that it takes 500 people a long time for a break -- so be sure to allow enough time for that, which reduces your actual presentation time!

-- Tony Palm

I recommend you develop a creative, highly polished PowerPoint presentation. Then rent (or use one the hotel/conference center may have) a LCD projector.

Use a remote control device keeping it intimate while providing the best possible visual impact.

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