In your big meeting you often put the invited speakers right up in front of the room. Maybe they are instructors, or a leader of a different division.  They could be industry experts brought in to inspire, or guide the group through a problem solving session.  Whatever the reason, this speaker was given valuable time in your agenda.  It simply makes sense to do everything that you can to make sure that the presentation really resonates with your audience.

You can help your speaker be most effective by assisting the audience and setting the stage so that the listeners are open and ready to receive the presentation as well as the presenter.  A well thought out introduction can help accomplish this, but it might just be a change in the way that the speaker reaches the podium that can ensure that your team is receptive.

In a productive relationship between presenter and audience, the audience is open to, and ready to take in the speaker’s oration.  Hopefully the relationship has a sense of trust.  But, according to a recent study, people are wired to feel negative, or even “distrust” people that approach them.  Researchers that conducted the study found that people “feel more negative toward individuals, images, and sounds if those ‘stimuli’ are perceived to be approaching them.” The researchers feel that these negative feelings are possibly an instinctive response, somewhat like the way people bristle when they feel that someone is invading their space.  The audience can lose their trust and increase an “undercurrent of negative feeling” as a speaker moves closer to the group.


There might be some level of evolutionary reason that people seem to act as if they are feeling threatened or made alert to potential danger as they are approached by a stranger. Taking it one step further, a seated audience can really develop negative feelings as a speaker moves in from above, maybe from a raised platform where he may look larger and more imposing.


This aversion, the article says, “Has cautionary implications for public speakers who like to get close to their audience.”


Physical closeness does not necessarily mean being connected.  Your speaker may want to really reach your audience, but walking into their space may not be the way to accomplish this.   You can minimize the potential fear factor by having your speaker start their speech closer to the audience.  They can engage first, and then move towards the group, reducing the “threatened by a stranger” component.  No matter what the position, linking your speaker to your audience physically, instead of just through an introduction can help establish a connection before the speech even starts.