Watch and Learn

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I just returned from the annual conference of the National Speakers Association, which means it was my turn to sit in the audience for four days and watch professional speakers work. I was struck by the little things they do that have a big impact on their talks, so I thought I'd pass them along:

When no one sits in the front row, instead of yelling, "There are seats up here in front!" say, "Premium seats are still available!" No one wants to sit in the front row, but they do want to sit in a premium seat.

When it's time for Q&A, ask "What questions do you have?" instead of "Questions?" It's more inviting and people will actually ask questions.

To avoid long-winded questioners who make speeches of their own, launch the Q&A by saying, "Let's do Fast & Furious questions" and keep your answers short too. It's the speed-dating version of Q&A and keeps the energy level in the room up.

Best conference workshop title was "Never Pick the Hot Girl: A Guide to Audience Management." Lesson when asking for audience volunteers for an activity or demonstration: Don't choose the person who looks as if he/she wants to be the center of attention.

When an audience volunteer is onstage with you, treat him/her like a guest in your home. Don't embarrass. Be kind.