Tag Archives: public speaking

Is Your Audience on Facebook? [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

Isaac Castillo is leading a 3-part series about public speaking skills and nonverbal communication for evaluators. Isaac has taught public speaking and debate at the high school and college levels, and he was an All American debater before entering the evaluation field. I hope you enjoy reading his third post.  — Ann Emery


Part 3: Is Your Audience on Facebook?

When people ask me what is going on in my mind when I give a presentation, I answer them by saying: “I’m reading the audience.”  But what exactly does that mean? 

In presentations, nonverbal communication works both ways.  In previous posts I have discussed how your movement and gestures as a presenter can further emphasize your presentation.  However, your audience is using nonverbal communication as well – and learning how to interpret these cues can help you turn around a struggling presentation or allow you to make your content truly inspirational. 

As a presenter, you not only have to present your material, you have to observe audience members to see if they are paying attention to you or if they are updating their Facebook status.  But how exactly do you do this?  

I look for people’s behaviors.  Engaged audience members will look right at you, will shake their heads in agreement or disagreement, will take notes, or ask questions.   Audience members who have lost interest will be taking notes or working on devices but never look up or at you, will be holding side conversations, or will yawn or look around the room continuously.   All of these are signs that you have lost some members of the audience and that you will soon lose many more.  This is the time to change things up and re-engage people.

So how do you re-engage your audience when you have lost them?  That is where you can use some nonverbal techniques such as movement around the room, verbal techniques such as changing the volume of your voice, or even changing the flow of your presentation.   Telling a personal story or giving a real world example also frequently gets people re-engaged.  

The key thing to remember once you have lost your audience is that you need to do SOMETHING different.  That something different may be something as simple as moving around the room or telling a new story, or it may be more drastic like taking an unplanned break.  Don’t be afraid of these situations – like a good evaluator, just keep in mind that sometimes an approach will fail and you will need to implement a different presentation approach to improve the outcome for the audience! 

Additional Resources:

Tips for Beginners:   See eye to eye.  Making eye contact, even only briefly, is important.  It provides you with the opportunity to make a connection with an audience member, and it holds their attention.  Try to make yourself switch eye contact with a different audience member every minute of your presentation.

Tips for Veterans:   Improve your ability to read the audience quickly.  Try this little exercise (you’ll need help from 1 or 2 people to act as an audience).  Give a practice presentation, and have your helpers sit in different parts of the room.  At regular intervals (no more than 1 minute, no less than 15 seconds) the helpers should hold up SIMPLE math problems (1+1= ; 5-3= ; 2×3= ; etc.) in the audience, and you should be able to read them, and answer them (aloud or in your head) while still giving your presentation.  This will train your brain and your eyes to be looking for cues from the audience, interpreting them, and doing something about them during the course of your presentation.

Tips for Experts:   Engage the daydreamer.  Nothing brings someone’s attention to you like actually directly engaging them in your presentation.   When I see an audience member losing focus or working on something else, I often directly engage them in one of several ways.  I may ask them a question or ask them to provide an example.  I stand or sit down next to them and tell them one of my stories or examples directly.  These approaches get daydreamers to re-focus and provide a change of pace for the rest of the audience.

–Isaac Castillo, @isaac_outcomes


Related Posts from Isaac:

Movement as Speech: 3-Part Series on Nonverbal Communication [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

Isaac Castillo is leading a 3-part series about public speaking skills and nonverbal communication for evaluators. Isaac has taught public speaking and debate at the high school and college levels, and he was an All American debater before entering the evaluation field.

He writes, “When presenting in person, many people focus intently on what they will say and on the slides or other content that they will present visually.  However, there is an equally important component of in-person presentations that can greatly improve your affect on the audience:  nonverbal communication and body language.   In this three part blog series, we will cover how you can make the most of your movement, your hands, and your eyes to improve your presentation.” I hope you enjoy learning some of Isaac’s strategies.  — Ann Emery


Part 2: Movement as Speech

Isaac Castillo, Movement as Speech

How and when you move around a presentation space can greatly improve your presentation – particularly when speaking to a large audience.   Far too often, speakers remain rooted to a podium or table – using it as some form of crutch or security blanket.   But leaving those safe confines (if done effectively) can further emphasize your points and keep your audience engaged.   How can you make sure you are using movement most effectively in your presentations?  Here are some tips…..

First, plan out where you are going to move to during your presentation.  Try to get to your presentation space early and look at the layout.   Is there ample space for you to move from one side of the room to the other?  Are there chairs and obstacles in the way?  Will the projector shine in your eyes if you stand in a particular spot?  Actually walk the space and make a determination if there are bad spots to move through and avoid them.

Second, reconsider things once people show up.  If you end up with a crowded space, or many people in the front, you may want to limit the total area where you will move.   Conversely, in a very open space that is not crowded, you’ll want to move more to keep everyone’s attention and to make the room feel smaller.

Finally, remember to move with a purpose.  Do not wander across the room or pace across the stage.  Move to make a point or to keep the audience engaged.   If you find yourself wandering during a presentation stay still for several minutes and then only move again when there is a natural break in your content.

Additional resources:  this blog post offers some interesting things to keep in mind when considering movement for your presentation:  http://www.nosweatpublicspeaking.com/non-verbal-communication-element-5-body-movement/

Tips for Beginners:   Make yourself move at a certain time!  Keep an eye on your time, and remind yourself to move at certain time intervals.  When I first began speaking regularly, I would make myself move every 5 minutes.   Moving at certain intervals keeps your audience engaged (since they should be following you with their eyes) and also provides good natural breaks in the flow of your presentation.

Tips for Veterans:   Match verbal transitions with movement transitions.  Movement in a presentation is best done when it complements your words – so try to match your movement around a room with good transition points in your presentation.  One of my favorite things to do is to move to emphasize important points or to transition from one concept to another.

Tips for Experts:   When appropriate, try to move into your audience.  There may be times in your presentation where moving to the back of the room, or even sitting down in the audience can help make an important point.  You could move to the back of the room to keep less interested audience members engaged or focused, or sit down next to an audience member to recreate a situation.  You will certainly get people’s attention, and hopefully add another layer to your words.

— Isaac Castillo, @isaac_outcomes

The Volume of Your Presentation [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

I’m getting excited for the American Evaluation Association’s Potent Presentations Initiative because it will offer training on messaging, design, and delivery to help evaluators transform into rockstar presenters. Although many of us are beginners at delivering presentations, others are veterans or experts. Today I’ve invited one of my favorite expert-level presenters, Isaac Castillo, to share some of his presentation tips with us. Isaac is also a great resource about performance management and youth development, and you can follow him on Twitter here: @isaac_outcomes.

Enjoy! Ann Emery


Isaac Castillo

“One of the most difficult things for many presenters to master is volume control of their voice.   In most situations, we are used to talking in a normal conversational tone and volume.  But normal volume usually doesn’t work for a presentation – and it certainly doesn’t work if you are presenting without a microphone.   On the other hand, you don’t want to be screaming at your audience, particularly in a small space.

So how do you know if your volume is correct?  Here are some tips to keep in mind.

If at all possible, get to your presentation space early and ask someone to help check your volume.  This could be a friend or colleague, the person responsible for audio/visual needs, or even that eager person that shows up first.  Keep in mind that what sounds loud enough at the beginning of your presentation in an empty room will NOT be loud enough when dozens (or hundreds) of people fill the room.

But sometimes you won’t have the chance to check your volume in a room before you start.  In these cases, here are some things you can do to make sure everyone can hear you.

First, you can simply ask your audience if you are loud enough.  There is nothing wrong with this, and really is one of the best ways to check your volume.  The key is to make sure you get feedback from the back of the room – those in the front row will always be able to hear you, you want to make sure the same is true for those in the last row.

Second, you should look for signs that members of the audience are having difficulty hearing you.  Looks of confusion, people leaning forward, and tilted heads are all good signs that you are not being loud enough.  And again, pay attention to those in the back row.

Tips for Beginners:   Talk slightly louder than you think you should be talking.  If you feel like you are talking in a normal voice, you are not loud enough.  You should really feel like you are talking slightly louder than necessary – that will be your correct volume for a filled room.

Tips for Veterans:  Work out your diaphragm!  Your diaphragm is where you get your vocal volume.   Do this exercise to increase your capacity to talk louder:  lie on your back and place a book (nothing too heavy) on your stomach directly below your ribcage.   Take a deep breath in and lift the book by inflating your diaphragm.  Breathe out and let the book fall with your stomach.  Practice this for five minutes a day – increasing the weight of the books.  You should eventually be able to lift two telephone books with no effort.

Tips for Experts:   Use different volume levels during your presentation.   Telling stories or communicating content at different volume levels can add a different level of emphasis to your presentation.  I like to use a softer voice when talking about difficult work or when telling emotional stories.  Louder voices are good for exciting moments.  Varying your volume intentionally within your presentation can help make a good presentation great.”

–Isaac Castillo

The best presenters focus on their audience [Guest post by Isaac Castillo]

I’m on a voyage to learn more about great presentations as part of the American Evaluation Association’s new Potent Presentations Initiative (P2i).

Here’s a guest post by my former supervisor, Isaac Castillo. Isaac is one of the most talented public speakers in the evaluation and performance management field. In fact, I watched this video a few days before I interviewed with him and was sold by his comfort in front of the camera. I thought to myself, “Here’s a guy who really knows his stuff and can explain it to others!” Unfortunately those skills are much too rare in the evaluation field.

I hope you enjoy reading Isaac’s reflections about presentations.

– Ann Emery


“Good presenters, and good storytellers, can work their magic in any setting, using many things (or nothing) to help communicate their points. So the best presenters have to be flexible enough to respond to their audience, their environment, and the pace of their presentation.

On Sunday, I delivered an opening plenary for a national conference, and got through the first part with good audience feedback and energy. But I noticed a lag in interest halfway through my time, and did something rarely done: I stopped and encouraged the audience of 100+ to take a break. There was no break called for in the schedule, but I read the audience and recognized that if they were to get the most out of my last few messages, they needed to relax for a few minutes and come back refreshed.

I think most presenters focus on their content – and will deliver this content in the way they think is best. The BEST presenters focus on their audience – and these presenters will rarely deliver the same content in the same way. They will make changes based on what they read their audience and environment to be at the time.”

– Isaac Castillo