Recently I spoke with Beau Basel Beaudoin. She shared decades of experience and explained what you need to do before, during, and after events to become a successful speaker. As a member of the National Speakers Association, she has presented workshops and scores of keynote addresses at conferences and universities, both in the United States and internationally, on pedagogical strategies for seasoned faculty and new instructors, race, class, gender, and equity, and moral philosophy.
“Speaking is about building relationships and realizing that you are there to serve each member of the audience,” she says. Speakers are there to help them find solutions to problems. We are there to inspire them. Our presentations should be about “How can I help the people in the audience?”
Before Your Presentation
The question then becomes, “How do I know how to help them?” Beau has questionnaires that she personalizes for each client and has them fill it out before she steps into a classroom or onto a stage. Her questions help her understand what the person who hired her liked about previous presentations and what they didn’t like. When possible, she suggests setting up five-minute calls with stakeholders of the event and ask each one two or three questions. These query sessions help Beau add and, when necessary, subtract or change things about her future presentations.
One of the most important questions to ask is, “By the end of my session, what do you want the audience to have learned?” The answer will give you the objective of your talk. This guarantees that you have something meaningful to share and that you know how to best prepare for each individual speaking session.
One of the most important questions to ask is, “By the end of my session, what do you want the audience to have learned?”
Go to the venue ahead of time, at least an hour or even a day if your schedule permits. Beau has seen great speakers that don’t look good from the audience’s perspective because of lighting, placement of the podium, and many other things that could be changed to make the speaker better present. Planning will help you feel better in that space, which will help you give a better presentation. If it’s a virtual presentation, test the software ahead of time.
During Your Presentation
Tailor your introduction to each audience. When Beau speaks to an academic group, her introduction focuses on her Ph.D. and stresses that her material is research-based. Tailoring your opening based on surveys and conversations with the person that hired you lets the audience know that you understand who they are and how you can help them. Once you’re on stage, share your objective for the session with your audience, so they know what to expect to learn.
Once you’re on stage, don’t speak for more than ten minutes without interacting with the audience. It could be something as simple as asking them, “Are we in agreement with what I’m sharing? Are you thinking like this too? The same questions could be asked in the chatbox during a virtual and then letting the participants type their answers. You don’t want to open the floor at any event and let anyone with an opinion share theirs. That makes it easy for you to lose control of the event, and the audience could take up valuable time that was supposed to go to your speech. If you do open the floor, set expectations by saying something like, “We’ll take one or two people to share and save the rest of the comments for the question-and-answer period later.”
About The Guest
Beau Basel Beaudoin PhD is a Carnegie Foundation US Professor of the Year and a Distinguished Teaching Fellow of Columbia College Chicago. She is Professor Emerita, having recently retired from the Television Department/ School of Media Arts, after creating the groundbreaking courses Culture, Race and Media, Moral Philosophy & Pop Culture and Documenting Social Injustice. In addition to her doctorate in Media Literacy/Analysis and Multicultural Learning, she has earned a master’s in Psychology/Counseling, B.S. in Television Studies, and a B.A. in Education.
As a member of the National Speakers Association, she has presented workshops and scores of keynote addresses at conferences and universities, both in the United States and internationally, on pedagogical strategies for seasoned faculty and new instructors, issues of race, class and gender equity, and moral philosophy. Her peer-reviewed publications can be found in media, education and diversity journals, as well as in Multicultural America: A Multimedia Encyclopedia by Sage Publications.
Beau brings diverse perspectives and passion to every endeavor . . . and truly enjoyed speaking with Mark J. Carter.