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Never Speak Alone: Proven Strategies for Gaining High Results from Low Audience Turnout

Sunday, October 17th, 2010


There are very few things as a speaker that are more discouraging than low attendance for your workshop, seminar, demo, or presentation. Fact: every speaker paid or otherwise makes a sacrifice. That sacrifice is what bonds us speakers together. Consider the hours spent preparing your topic, traveling by plane, train, or automobile to the event, the nerves that appear in your gut as you are preparing for your session, and the courage it takes to stand in front of total strangers and claim to be an authority on a subject.

What I have outlined below are my tips for making the most out of a low turnout. I have used these strategies over and over again. You may never sell-out an entire stadium like Anthony Robbins or deliver a demo that is newsworthy like Steve Jobs but if you follow these tips, your audience will gain value from attending your sessions.

Bring Your Audience into the Presentation
Smaller audiences mean that you have a chance to include them into your topic.
* Have the audience introduce themselves and their personal scenario relating to your session. Remember or write down their names. Use their scenarios as case studies. As an attendee of your session, I will pay attention 100% if you include me. When you were in High School in a boring class, didn’t you always perk up when the teacher mentioned your name?? Same concept.
While in the midst of the session, keep the following mental cues on the forefront:
* Does this slide relate to a specific person in the room?
* What is the common denominator of each person in my group?
* How can I relate this topic on a human level? Do I have a personal experience that I can share?

Create On-Demand Viewing
We live in an era where searchability = relevance or as I like to call it “The On-Demand Generation”.
The reason people do not attend your sessions could range from lacking a compelling title, inconsistent to nonexistent promotion of your event, or lack of social proof within your industry.
This is OK. If 2 people show up to your event, you need to still deliver a stellar presentation because you now have the tools and technology to deliver for an online audience.

A few low cost On-Demand Strategies
* Screencapture your SlideDeck.
* Record your session using a webcam
* Use microblogging via Twitter to field questions for online audience

For sessions where I have entertained less than 5 people, I will go as far as taking a photo with each and every person, combine that with photos of the better slides within the presentation and re-package that as a Photo Slideshow of that presentation, which is additional On-Demand Content.

Encourage Follow-Up
This is a low-cost yet advanced strategy that I don’t see enough speakers utilize, especially in Information Tech speaking circles. Sure, its great to promote your blog or social networks during your session but you have a golden opportunity to create a VIP club due to the exclusive setting that having a small group provides. You should (at a minimum) encourage business card exchange at the end of the session.
This is one reason why having attendees introduce themselves is such a huge benefit. If I have mentioned you and your scenario throughout my session, we have built a rapport during that time.
As an attendee, I will feel that it easier to approach the podium after your session and connect with you offline. I also highly recommend having a sign-up sheet that is passed around for signature during the middle of the session.
Why pass around the signature sheet during the middle?
As a speaker, your job is to answer the question “Why am I here?” for each and every attendee during the first 10 minutes of your talk. It is your time to quickly break the ice and establish rapport with your audience. Below
* Conference call follow-up with your attendees delivered within 2 weeks of session
* “Special” webcast themed around your session. Mention your attendees by name & example within this webcast and you’ll gain a friend for life :)
* Bonus material for those who attended

The average person fears public speaking more than death. The average speaker fears lonely audiences is death. Follow these strategies and the 2 people who attend your session will have a valuable, personalized experience.

What are your thoughts on low audience attendance as a speaker? Share your stories in the comments section below or follow me on Twitter to discuss this topic

Written by: Shadeed Eleazer

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Shadeed Eleazer
Shadeed Eleazer is on a mission to adopt 100 classrooms and modernize digital learning tools to solve Digital Illiteracy for over 3,000 Baltimore City public school students in the year 2016.
He is a full-time Entrepreneur known for architecting the official state websites of Maryland, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin.
He provides Business and Technology expertise for thousands via his lectures, broadcasts, and content.