To piggyback off last week’s post on finding public-speaking gigs (which is much easier said than done), here’s three handy tips gleaned from Neil Joglekar, the co-founder of ReelSurfer with three reflections on his recent speaking engagement at the Entertainment Technology Center at Carnegie Mellon.
I started teaching last year at Second City, and a lot of what Joglekar says I found also applies to my work there. I also feel that part of teaching, and, indeed, keeping an audience engaged is about putting everyone at ease and bridging the gap in the inherent status gap. That is: There isn’t one incredibly important person and many so-so important people in the same room — there’s just a lot of people joined together interested in the same thing.
Joglekar notes that “you don’t need to be stiff to look professional and prepared.” You should “play to your personality,” and that means just being yourself. I know, there’s the initial stage fright, but you should just be you and accept that some people will embrace your style or they won’t. You’re better off winning over fans by just being sincere instead of trying to win over people you don’t know who don’t know the real you. Who needs that headache?
Another facet of this is telling personal stories.
And all of this goes back to, essentially, having a conversation with your audience. Encourage them to talk and participate and “repeatedly ask if anyone has questions [because] even if you offer the opportunity to be interrupted, few people will take it.”
The more you ask, “Okay, does anyone have any questions about that before we move on?” the more it reinforces that, yes, you care about the folks listening and want to assure they’re connecting with you and what you’re saying.
It’s pretty tough to give a talk with an audience, so you might as well try to stay in lockstep with them. Read more on how to do this over at Joglekar's blog post.
David Wolinsky is a freelance writer and a lifelong Chicagoan. In addition to currently serving as an interviewer-writer for Adult Swim, he's also a comedy-writing instructor for Second City. He was the Chicago city editor for The Onion A.V. Club where he provided in-depth daily coverage of this city's bustling arts/entertainment scene for half a decade. When not playing video games for work he's thinking of dashing out to Chicago Diner, Pizano's, or Yummy Yummy. His first career aspirations were to be a game-show host.