When I was just starting out as a motivational speaker, I was nervous. On Stage, I would pace back and forth and stare blankly at the audience, searching for the next word to say. It was not a fun experience for me (or the audience).
I had a good friend observe me speak and suggest that I need to "own the room." Stop looking at the audience for advice or approval and instead, just like a dog, mark my territory.
Before completely dismissing the advice, I decided to give it a shot.
Mark your Territory
Just like a dog marks his territory by urinating in different corners of a backyard( I know, it sounds odd, but stick with me), to own a room means to make it your own. Be territorial and claim the space.
The way I marked my territory was to walk through the room and engage different people in the room. I started to interact with audience members in different parts of the room, before and during my speech. At first it seemed awkward as I stumbled through the crowd asking odd, impromptu questions, but eventually I started to see public speaking as an interactive, growing experience.
The audience started to become allies and not enemies. The speech was now about us learning and not me performing. The pressure came off of me and the focus was now on the audience and the message.
The relationship and the connection between me, the audience and the message changed.
Here are some suggestions on how you can Own a Room:
Take a broad glance at the room. Notice patterns: are people collecting around the back? Or near the restroom? Search out friendly, smiling faces so you can gravitate in that direction. Next, decide what territory you want to cover and pockets of people you want to connect with.
Walk around an interact and engage with people in the room. Some networking gurus would call this, " working the room". Basically, you are marking your territory to feel more comfortable. Every connection you make will make you feel more at home and safe. In this way, you can make a room full of strangers become your confidants and allies.
Be prepared with something to say, or have a couple of talking points or interesting questions to ask others. For instance, I like questions that require a simple yes or no answer as they get immediate feedback.
I also like questions that make people think like, why did you chose your line of work? The audience responses can generate some really interesting discussion.
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