How Your Audience Processes Information

What we know about how people process information lets us present information in best way.

  • Be aware of speed of listening – you speak at 100 words per minute
  • People comprehend at 400 to 1000 words per minute
  • Minds wander – count on it
  • Be aware of response curve – attentive at start, space out in middle, attentive at end
  • Put no critical elements in middle, always bury the weakest

Audience needs to know where they’re going and where they are

Effective opening

  • Grabs attention (story, skit, visual, question, warm-up activity)
  • Says you’re in control and that this is the ride they are taking
  • Be yourself (memorize vs. not)

Give preview

  • People like maps
  • Best to tell main point (rec., outline, or conclusion) first
  • Without maps, audience goes elsewhere, you lose control

Tell main point first then…

  • Examples tell points you’ll cover, problem you’ll remedy, major objectives
  • Limit the number of points
  • Don’t overload
  • Less is better
  • Use explicit transitions & summaries that repeat points
  • Keep audience’s place for them, help them tune in and tune out

 Summarize at end

  • Repeat major points
  • Don’t close with a question and answer w/o bringing it back to you
  • Bring it home to mama
  • And don’t walk off stage
  • Use a pause to get attention
  • Do your close

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