3 Crucial Differences In Adapting Your Presentation For A Small Group

I once attended a talk given by an aspiring public speaker, to a group of no more than fifteen people. She strolled in front of the room, while we were all in mid-conversation over a morning cup of tea, and began giving her speech. She didn’t say ‘Good morning’ or let us know the event was about to begin, she simply launched into it rather loudly in the hope of instantly hushing us all down with her talk.

It seemed as if she was acting out a conference stage presentation, or a rehearsed TED talk, with no regard for the people who were actually in the room. To make matters worse, her subject was ‘people skills’. Partway through she told us how important it was to remember someone’s name and then started pointing at me and calling me “Dominic”. I didn’t want to embarrass her so I kept quiet. Unfortunately, another man across the room raised his hand and said, “Actually, I’m Dominic, it was me you were talking to over coffee, not him.” She gave a nervous laugh and then continued her spiel. At the end, she asked us all to sign up for her course and needless to say she gained little interest. We didn’t feel connected with her. She had spoken at us, rather than truly talking with us.

I can remember falling into the same trap in my early days of speaking too. One day I could have 500 people in the audience, the next day I might only have four people for coaching. I had to work hard to adjust my voice, gestures, and energy to each event. Over the years I’ve developed an easier way of ensuring each group gains the connection they need.

How is this done?

  1. Breath– I studied acting in London for three years and one of our best teachers always spoke about “breathing to the space”. What this means is going into the venue you are speaking at and noticing the size of the room. Imagine you had to breathe out so that the air would reach the walls around you. How much effort would you need? Apply this level of effort and size to your voice, gesture width and physical energy. You will naturally achieve the right volume and make gestures that engage the size of the audience.
  2. Eye contact– if you simply speak to the space your delivery can feel robotic or performed. To humanize your work it is important to have deep eye contact with people. After all, why bother being in the room with others unless they feel connected with you. No matter how many people you are speaking to aim to look into their eyes until you notice their eye color, then the intricacies of their facial expressions. This may only take a few seconds before you look at the next person, but it will be enough to avoid scanning an audience or talking over their heads. In smaller groups, this is much more critical, because the personal connection you create with them is more powerful.
  3. Ask, don’t tell– we teach a range of scripting and storytelling techniques for people to prepare what they need to say for large audience events. However, when you are with a smaller group you can turn this structure into a conversation. You still have the desired journey that you want to go on, but instead of just telling people information you take the journey together. This structure generally consists of talking about the big picture, then the details and finally some agreed actions. You can ask people in a small group what their views are on each section as you move along so that you gain a full understanding of their needs and this will determine how you move forward. This moves you from giving a speech to creating collaboration. You’ll gain a clearer understanding of the people you are with and they will feel more cared for by you.

Overall, as much as you may need to prepare for important meetings, you must stay loose and ready to adapt to the people you are with to create a real and fulfilling connection.

If you would like to learn more about improving your communication at work, you can listen to my new podcast ‘Born To Speak’ on many podcast networks like iTunes and YouTube.

You can also contact us to run a workshop for your team. And you can connect with me on Linkedin to read the latest articles!



Richard Newman, CEO & Founder of UK Body Talk Ltd.

Richard Newman is an inspiring keynote speaker, and author of ‘Lift Your Impact,’ sharing ideas that tilt the world in a more positive direction.