There is one guaranteed sure-fire cert of a way of turning an audience off from your public speaking or presentation.
It's to deliver an off the shelf, bog standard, seen it all before talk.
I’ve suffered this more than a few times, and watched the reaction of the audience.
It's remarkable how quickly they become aware, and equally rapidly start muttering, fidgeting, and playing on their phones.
But! There is a simple and straightforward way to avoid falling into this trap.
A little thought, and in a matter of minutes you can personalise your presentation.
I was teaching a session on photography and videography to doctoral students at the University of Cambridge this week.
It’s something I’ve taught plenty of times before, and very much enjoy, as it’s one of the most playful and interactive workshops.
But if I’d just done it the way I always have, I'm sure it wouldn't have worked out so well.
So, that morning, I was thinking about how to personalise the talk, to make the audience feel special, as though it was made-to-measure for them.
And I had a stroke of luck.
The sunrise was an absolute beauty, a real fiery masterpiece.
So I quickly took a photo, and made that the beginning of my presentation.
I asked the group at the start of the session who had seen the sunrise.
Most put up their hands, and we shared an appreciation of the spectacle.
It was a great way of illustrating the power of photographs, and making them feel I had made an extra effort with the workshop.
There is always some way you can personalise a presentation for an audience.
Whenever I’m travelling to talk about communications, or my books, I make sure to get to the venue early.
Not only does it relax me ready for the presentation, it gives me an insight into the place, and an opportunity to open the talk in a way which feels set in the scene.
One talk I did in Sherborne, in Dorset, I was looking through the local papers, and saw there was a big row about the building of a Costa Coffee.
The locals didn't like it, as they treasured their beautiful High Street independent coffee shop, and didn’t want it threatened.
So I opened my talk with a story about enjoying a cup of tea and a slice of cake at the independent shop, and how much better it was that any chain.
It was pure playing to the audience, but went down beautifully. An ideal icebreaker to start the session.
So whatever you’re talking about, or wherever you’re heading, it's a good idea to think about how you can personalise your presentation.
Always get it in at the start, as it makes you feel part of the audience, rather than a stranger in town.
Just a few minutes’ thought and effort can pay big dividends in making your performance a whole lot more effective and enjoyable, for both your audience and yourself.