Public Speaking Considerations for Outdoor Events
Consider unpredictable weather, a focus on inclusivity and remember: technology tends to fail at the least opportune times.
Public speaking is an invaluable forum to share and express ideas. You have the opportunity to communicate something that you feel is interesting, important, or exciting. Perhaps more vital, it offers the potential to connect with audience members in this particular area of interest or expertise. You’re not just shouting into the void of the internet. You are talking, people are listening, and you can collaborate to further develop and spread these ideas.
There are certainly some challenges with public speaking. Many people are familiar with the issue of stage fright or the anxiety of losing your way along your presentation. But, perhaps less well-explored are the environmental aspects of public speaking — specifically, the fact that presenting at an outdoor event can be a very different experience from the standard indoor situation.
We’re going to explore these challenges a little further to figure out the most important public speaking considerations for outdoor events and help you prepare for any situation.
Prepare for Comfort and Confidence
Public speaking can be nerve-wracking even for seasoned professionals. As much as 77% of the population experiences public speaking anxiety. Physical comfort and confident body language can feed into your presentation, helping you to remain centered. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy with outdoor events as you’re less in control of the environment. As such, you should prepare methods to boost your comfort and confidence at the event.
Firstly, speak to the organizers of the arena you’ll be speaking from. Find out about potential coverings and heating/cooling provisions. Review the projected weather conditions for the day. The last thing you want to do is be overexposed, even on sunny days. Remember, this doesn’t just cause discomfort, but there is evidence to suggest even a single sunburn can lead to cancer. Not to mention that both the physical sensation of burning and the thought of the consequences can be distracting. Prepare with plenty of sunscreen and cover up with clothing accordingly. Similarly, on cold days, you should ensure you have layers you can add and remove for comfort.
From a confidence standpoint, your actions may involve calming routines before your presentation. Again, inquire with the organizers if you can have access to a private area where you can relax, meditate, and center yourself. If you’re more confident when you can actively interact with the audience, review the potential for moving among the crowd in the outdoor area without causing any technical issues. The more you can prearrange these elements, the more confident and in control you’ll feel.
No matter what subject you’re speaking on, you want as many people as possible to join the discussion. After all, you have something to say about a field you’re passionate about. The whole point of speaking in public is to engage and inspire others with your perspectives. Not to mention, it is ethically vital that everybody who wants to be enriched or informed by your speaking has the ability to do so. As such, you need to make sure there is a high level of inclusivity at the outdoor event.
Talk to the event organizers about accessibility. Wherever possible, come at this from a place of collaboration. Help them establish ways to make the event more accessible. Start by assessing compliance with the standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Look into the presence of ramps for wheelchair access. Consider whether the portable bathroom facilities have grab bars for stability. Also, inquire about the presence of outdoor hearing loops for individuals with hearing differences. These accommodations shouldn’t just be for audiences but also for other speakers to ensure a rich and diverse contribution to the subject.
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In addition, it’s important for you to make sure your personal outdoor-speaking approach is inclusive. You may be competing with louder weather conditions that can interfere with the clarity of your speech. Work on your enunciation to ensure everyone can easily understand you even through these difficulties. Look into a sign language interpreter, if possible. Further, smaller props may be clear in intimate indoor spaces, but outside these can be difficult for those with vision impairments to see. Bear these elements in mind when planning your presentation.
Don’t Rely on Technology
The rise of the digital landscape has offered some important tech for events. These can help speakers be more creative in presentations through the use of interactive elements, digital visual aids, and smart devices. However, while these may be successful additions to indoor spaces, they may not be effective, appropriate, or reliable for outdoor events. Therefore, it’s important not to rely on them entirely.
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For instance, you might not be able to guarantee that the outdoor area you’ll be performing in has reliable internet service. This could interfere with your ability to use online resources like augmented reality elements or slides hosted on your website or cloud platform. At the very least, you need to make sure you have physical backups for any such visual aids. However, it’s usually wiser to design your presentation around the possibility of not using such tools at all.
This should even extend to using your phone. Many speakers use smartphones to practice their presentation text or use it to store prompts during the speech. There is never any guarantee that your technology will function correctly. You may even run out of battery and not have easy access to a charging point when outdoors. Print out your presentation notes, though committing as much as possible to memory may help your confidence in any case.
Outdoor public speaking tends to be loaded with a unique set of challenges. Take the time to research and prepare for environmental conditions that can affect your comfort and confidence. Establish ways to make both the outdoor space and your presentation more inclusive. While technology is helpful, you can’t always rely on it at outdoor events, so prepare backups and alternatives accordingly. With some planning and forethought, you can ensure you and your audience gets the most from your outdoor presentation.
Noah Rue is a journalist and content writer, fascinated with the intersection between global health, personal wellness, and modern technology. When he isn’t searching out his next great writing opportunity, Noah likes to shut off his devices and head to the mountains to disconnect.