Warming Up The Audience Before Delivering Your Message

As a consultant I have walked into rooms where the temperature was so cold I debated getting gloves, but whether I’m lobbying or speaking at an event, I always warm up my audience before delivering my message. When they’re warm, I’m hot.

A Story from the Field

The CEO of the large pharmaceutical company was anxious to meet with an Assistant Deputy Minister (ADM).  His company had considerable concerns around a regulatory process and he wanted to share their proposals towards addressing that challenge.  He knew that in the weeks prior to his meeting there had been quite a bit of bad press about the program the ADM was responsible for. What’s more, the bad press had resulted from many unfortunate and accusatory comments leveled directly at the ADM by another pharmaceutical company.  It was of little surprise to the CEO when he was only granted 30 minutes for the meeting, and even less of a surprise when 30 minutes was reduced to 15 minutes once he arrived.

Rather than launching into his proposal, he started the meeting by explaining that he understood the challenges the department faced.  He explained that he thought the press coverage unfortunate since it did nothing to contribute to an open dialogue between his industry and the department.  The ADM who had started the meeting with her hands folded across her chest and her lips so tightly pursed she might have produced diamonds from coal, slowly began to relax.  When her assistant came into the meeting to get her after 15 minutes, the ADM shook her head and the meeting proceeded. By the time the CEO explained that his company funded a group of independent scientists who would be available for an exchange program with the department due to their specialized knowledge, 45 minutes had elapsed. The ADM was leaning forward attentively and asking about how the scientists were chosen and how the exchange might work. The meeting ended after an hour and there were smiles all round.

As government relations exercises go, I have rarely been so impressed with a client for turning what could have been a disaster into a triumph. When we were told we had 15 minutes I wasn’t sure if he would stay or walk out, but he was a total trooper.  Its a lesson that has stayed with me.

Three Tips For Managing First Meetings

  • Assume nothing about your audiences knowledge of you; make sure your position/attitude is clearly stated at the beginning of the meeting.
  • Read the body language of the person you are meeting with and respond to it.
  • Establishing rapport will serve you better than any well practiced pitch.

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0 responses to “Warming Up The Audience Before Delivering Your Message

  • A good tip to remember. Often times I feel like I don’t want to waste someone’s time so I get right to the point. I’m going to work on building the rapport and finding a good balance.

  • Warming up the audience for the main event is certainly not an enviable task. But aI loved your first line about needing gloves – great! Establishing a rapport is probably the most significant one to take away, as however prepared, you have to go with what’s in front of you.

  • It was a nice read and I have learned a lot from this.
    Few days back I have attended a workshop about warming up and engaging audience.
    As a teacher I try to apply this to my students , even in this case you have to warm up your students and you have to inspire them and keep them motivated during 2-3 hour lecture otherwise they get bored and do not pay any attention and the objectives are never achieved.
    We have to also check the body language and must keep a room to change approach to keep others involved.
    It is great story with great advice.

  • Hello
    It was a nice read and I have learned a lot from this.
    Few days back I have attended a workshop about warming up and engaging audience.
    As a teacher I try to apply this to my students , even in this case you have to warm up your students and you have to inspire them and keep them motivated during 2-3 hour lecture otherwise they get bored and do not pay any attention and the objectives are never achieved.
    We have to also check the body language and must keep a room to change approach to keep others involved.
    It is great story with great advice.

  • Once again, great post Debra. Some of this could be relevant in job interviews as well. During a recent interview I experienced nerves that I don’t typically, I was able to take control of them (and the situation) by making my remarks and interaction very conversational and using professional anecdotes that endeared him to me as a person rather than a subject. His initial response was that this would be a 20-30 minutes, we had an hour long “conversation” that ended on a high note.

  • jbutler1914 says:
    April 24, 2014 @ 03:39 pm

    Warming up the audience gets people ready for any meeting or event. The presenter will then have their full attention.

  • jankedonna says:
    April 24, 2014 @ 01:58 pm

    Good lessons for speaking to large audiences or one-on-one meetings. It must have been fascinating to watch the CEO and the ADM in that meeting.

  • Yes true! Warming up the audience plays a great role in ensuring a healthy meeting. But one thing which is must in these situations is confidence. After all you cannot afford to invite negativities in that intense situation.

  • Having spoken to audiences around the country and across the Pacific Ocean, audiences have one thing in common: they are in your audience to hear your message in an informative, inspiring and uplifting manner. Because those first few minutes are the only chance you have to win them over and break their preoccupation with any negative thoughts rolling around in their head, I’ve also treated it as the most important. Then, things just go well from there! Thanks for a terrific story about one way to make it happen.

  • You are so right about the warmup and body language. I had to do public speaking as part of my job and was most successful when I was confident and relaxed. If I was tired and didn’t take the time to gauge my audience, this was quickly reflected back by their boredom. Great pointers.
    Lenie

  • Always put your feet in the others shoes. A lesson I was taught at an early age that has been beneficial to me in the corporate world as well as in everyday life.

  • As a professional speaker, my advice is always to establish rapport with the audience and be prepared to change your approach if you don’t see active listening going on. No one wants to be talked “at”. Interaction and story-telling is so important. Establishing eye contact and being flexible is paramount, too. Nice pointers!

  • crystalzakrison says:
    April 23, 2014 @ 05:53 pm

    The last three bullet points of advice are helpful. I took a public speaking class in college and they said always read your audience. That is a good one to remember. That person is awesome for turning the room around. Public speakers truly do have a gift. Great article! =)

  • It really takes skill to do something like right. Most would have folded or failed. It’s obvious there was experience along with confidence in his subject matter at work here. Just my thoughts. 🙂

  • HI Debra- If you don’t warm up the audience then they will be left cold and really not hear anything you are saying and hoping that your speech will end as soon as possible. I think your suggestions would probably work better if we did that with our children. We all know it is hard to get their attentions. Practice and them and then we would all be successes. Children are our best teachers. Enjoyed your post as always

  • Ah yes the warm-up. In our hurry hurry, rush rush mentality, we sometimes forget that, right? And I totally agree that reading body language is so important! I’ve often wondered why they don’t make a course in body language mandatory in every business school!

  • I haven’t done any public speaking, but your advice can be used in many situations. Even when blogging I find that I have to reintroduce myself every once in a while because of new followers and/or potential ones. Of course, the body language part is a little different. I need to, instead, figure out others out by reading their blogs.

  • Grace under fire in a tough situation like that shows skills in the speaker. Sadly, this isn’t something I can do. Well, at least not without quite a bit more training and practice.

  • Great article Debra. I always advise my clients to ‘kill ’em with kindness’….a smile goes further than a frown. While their issues are always top of mind and very relevant, a kind demeanour and friendly attitude will only pave the ways for a long and mutually beneficial relationship.

  • Totally agree that the audience needs to be warmed up and the start point is always to gauge the mood. In this case the CEO correctly established empathy with the audience outlook. Even comedians know that “Hello Montreal” and a couple of shots at Toronto are useful before launching into their bit, as for the first little while the audience is making its own assessment of body language etc. Its unlikely we will convert anyone to our point of view without first understanding theirs and acknowledging its validity.

  • A great example of how well it works to warm someone up. Have personally had really long meetings with ministers and even heads of states because of that. Was once told I had 15 minutes and the meeting lasted for 1,5 hours.

    It’s a shame that so many people in the West ignore the warm up. Americans and Northern Europeans are the worst. They have a lot to learn from the developing world where warm up frequently is the name of the game.

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