I love speaking to groups of people. It doesn’t matter if it is a group of 10 in a sales meeting or a group of a thousand at a conference; my goal is always the same: Everyone walks away feeling more energized than when they walked in. Over the past 15 years in the speaking and consulting, I have discovered everyone is a speaker but only a few regard it as part of their profession. It doesn’t matter if you are a crew leader speaking to three men about the goals for the day or a company owner speaking at a spring kickoff meeting, your ability to connect and make people feel great about themselves and your message could be the key to your continued success. to or with them?

A training session is a great place to observe an individual’s speaking ability. To check yourself, ask: “Am I doing it to them or with them?” The best trainers and presenters have a talent to make all participate, asking and answering questions and engaging in exercises or demonstrations. The learning session is a group effort not just someone spouting facts and trying to show how intelligent and well versed they are.

The most damaging thing a presenter can do to his audience is speak at them or make the fatal error of talking down to his audience, placing himself on a pedestal with legs that are sure to break and send the presentation crashing to the ground. At the close of your presentation, if any questions and hands go up, you know you have just spoken with them. If everyone stares at you with a glazed look that says they cannot bear anymore, then you have just spoken at them, and your challenge will then be to improve that for the next time. A great quote

One of my favorite quotes that keeps my presentations in line is, “People will forget what you say and do, but they will never forget how you make them feel.” Now think about one of your meetings or how you delivered the schedule for the day. Did people really listen? Were they paying attention? We gain a person’s attention when we first consider how they are feeling at the time we deliver the information. This works for a drill sergeant or minister. Both create an atmosphere where the message can be delivered.

How are you preparing for presentations? Remember the quote? “People will forget what you say… ” Even knowing this, we will still spend 75 percent of our time carefully preparing the words we are going to say. “They will forget what you do… ” Twenty percent of our time will be put into the examples or demonstrations that we will use. That leaves 5 percent of our preparation time for planning the atmosphere of the meeting and how you will make the audience feel — 5 percent, for the one thing the audience will never forget! Try reversing that percentage the next time you deliver a presentation.

Make them feel great

Setting of the meeting. Who are the people walking into your meeting or training session? Consider music to change the atmosphere. Add excitement with colored paper for the handouts or agenda. And why not try balloons at the next company meeting?

The first two minutes. Through the years, I have begun every talk with some exercises that engage the hearts and minds of the audience. Have them stand and do something or tell the audience what’s going great in their life. Get everyone to share how long they have been with the company or a zillion other questions you can ask. Just capture them early and connect.

Throughout the meeting. I am sometimes amazed at the talking head presenters who are not aware of their audience enough to notice that 90 percent of them are asleep. When I notice the audience drifting after sitting too long or hearing my voice, I change their state. Simply have them stand and stretch, show a motivational video, compliment the person next to them, etc. Do anything but let them sleep. We must be aware of the audience and sharp enough to take action when needed.

Closing the meeting. Make sure you have connected. Allow the audience to remind themselves of the key points of the session. By simply asking four or five people, “What did you learn today,” you will get a one-minute seminar by the audience’s peers that reminds everyone of the key points, while showing you if you got your main points across.

Extending the meeting. The events after the meeting are often an overlooked step in making people feel great. If it was a small sales meeting or a production meeting, why not send a recap of the meeting to everyone and a few cards to those that participated the most? If you can put a challenge to the group or a contest that drives home the behavior you were wanting from the presentation, you have extended the effectiveness of the presentation long after the meeting ended.

It is our responsibility to win the response we desire from our audience. You are on the right track if at the close of your presentation or meeting you can say, “I have enjoyed talking with you today.” If your audience then responds with applause that says the same, then you can rest assured you’ve made someone feel great, and they will not forget it.

Jim Paluch

Jim Paluch is a speaker, author and president of JP Horizons, Inc., Cleveland, Ohio. JP Horizons is the creator of Lawn & Garden Retailer Training Challenge. To learn more about the Training Challenge, or consulting services available through JP Horizons, visit or call (877) JPH-JAMS.