Will the audience listen to me? This is a concern of all speakers and presenters, and the question plagues each presentation anew. The simple answer is that if you can address the audience’s needs and concerns, they will listen. It can mean the difference between audience members reporting that you ‘spoke to them,’ rather than ‘at them.’
“Speak to the audience’s needs.” Initially,this advice may sound simplistic. Why would any speaker want to address an audience using content that is not relevant to them? And yet, it happens often, and there are two reasons for this:
- You have a pre-prepared PowerPoint presentation, from which you dare not deviate, (lecturers at universities are similarly tied to a set syllabus, and often make little or no attempt to make the information relevant to students); or
- You might not know anything about the audience, and thus deliver a canned, one-size-fits- all presentation.
- Both approaches show a lack of concern for the group you are addressing.
If you are willing to put a little time and effort into your presentation before the day of delivery, you will reap the rewards.
- Have You Tailored Your Opening To Acknowledge Something Unique About The Audience? You needn’t change your approach entirely. A few comments about their industry, current trends, or new developments can be enough. You can then link this in troin to your main content.
- CanYou Incorporate Something That Is Unique To The Day? For example, if there are renovations underway in the street outside, you might make a joke about it. Or if something particularly unusual happened in the previous presentation, you might comment on it.
- Have You Designed The Presentation As A ‘Take-Home’ Product For The Audience? Herein lies the major difference between talking to an audience, and talking at them. Organise your content so that it becomes useful to listeners. For example, rather than expounding on how fantastic your company’s medical aid scheme is, talk about how the scheme would be of benefit to them. They don’t care about your company, they care about what it can do for them. They don’t care about your product; they care about what they can get out of it. They are not there to humour you as you fill time on the stage; they are there to gain something of value that they can take away with them.
- Do You Know Who You’re Talking To? You may find yourself presenting the same basic content to a group of high school students and, later, to a group of CEO’s, and that’s fine. However, make sure that you alter your language style and your illustrations.
Always try to learn as much as you can about the audience demographic in advance. Read up on the trends affecting them and speak to their interests and needs, and you will keep them with you to the end.