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10 ways to be a "good host" when you speak

When you speak, think of it as a party.  You’re the host. Your listeners are the guests. 
Here are ten ways to make the party an informative experience that is comfortable and enjoyable for your guests.

  1. If you are publicizing your presentation in advance, your listeners should know what to expect. It’s like when you invite them to a party:  dinner, drinks, coffee and dessert. Let them know. A clear title for your presentation piques their interest.
  2. Anticipate the needs of your listeners, just as you would with your guests. Any special diets? When you speak, try to estimate how much your listeners know about your topic.  Do you need to give them background information, using language and terminology they can easily understand?
  3. Don’t underfeed or overfeed your “guests.”  How much information do they need? Don’t overload them with more detail than they can reasonably absorb. There is a limit to how much we can eat, and there is a limit to how much we can learn from listening during one conversation or presentation.
  4. Be cordial to your listeners. Give your guests friendly invitations or offers, like “Let’s talk about why profits are down this year” Or, “Shall we take a look at some of the consequences of these decisions?”
  5. Take your time.  Just as with a meal you serve at a party, your listeners need time to digest what you have said.
  6. Present with variety.  The food at a party should have a variety of interesting flavors. So should your presentation.  Vary the speaking rate, the pitch of your voice, your rhythm, pauses, and your gestures. If you use slides, include a variety of illustrations and graphs.
  7. Take notice of your listeners. If your listeners look puzzled or perplexed, invite them to ask questions.  Or, ask the questions yourself, and provide the answers.
  8. Make sure all the guests are taken care of.  Encourage your listeners to interact by graciously inviting comments, questions, and discussion.
  9. Make your guests feel comfortable with each other and with you. Compliment your listeners.  You can praise audience either individually or collectively for contributions they have made to the discussion.  
  10. Be mindful of allergies. If your point of view is controversial, promote a positive atmosphere. Acknowledge the value of different viewpoints.  

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