Toughest public speaking – the street entertainer

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I’ve set myself another challenge – to find the toughest public speaking gig ever.

For the purposes of this challenge, tough will equal ‘the most technically demanding’.

So what are my first thoughts?
I’m going to go with street performing as the toughest public speaking gig.

So much of what we read and learn about public speaking encourages us to put our audience first, to understand them and then to tailor our content for them.

Now lets think about the audience of a street entertainer – ever changing (day-by-day and minute-by-minute), nothing in common other than their desire to shop and to top it all – not actively seeking to hear to your message.

Imagine trying to give a presentation in your workplace if your colleagues kept getting up and leaving, or entering the room, were from teams irrelevant to your particular presentation topic and had a full to-do list they needed to get away and work on – tough, eh?

So how does the street entertainer overcome these obstacles? What sort of public speaking tactics does he/she employ?

– Consistently repeat your core message or reason for your actions, as your audience may have only been watching you for 30 seconds, not the last 30 minutes. That is, if you’re stood on a stool juggling knives, remind everyone ‘why’.

– Focus on the one thing your audience has in common. Oh dear – what is this amongst such a diverse and random group? In truth, it’s the last five seconds of your act, and everything that the audience can see (you, your knives, your stool, etc). From watching the very best street entertainers I’ve realised all of their humour focuses on visible and recent elements – there are very few running jokes.

– Be loud, and use your body to illustrate your message – wide gestures, big movements, indicative movements. Remember, in a noisy public place not everyone can hear you or see you fully.

I’ll keep thinking about the toughest public speaking gig, but I’m pretty sure after writing this post that I’d rather be giving a Powerpoint presentation tomorrow than juggling knives on a stool in a town centre!

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Rich Watts is the UK Business Speaker of the Year and a past JCI National Public Speaking champion. He setup and now runs Rich Public Speaking providing presentation skills and public speaking training.

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