009 – Audience First Content Second

By May 1, 2019 Podcast

Today I’m going to talk to you about some tips to help you present with greater impact and greater memorability…

The bottom line is you don’t have to love public speaking to be good at it. You don’t need to be funny to be engaging. In my experience you simply need to plan ahead and think as much about your audience as your content.

For simplicity I have developed, I guess you could call them, 3 governing pillars that serve as the mental roadmap for all my presentations:

I’ll describe each quickly here, so you get the basic idea, and then I’ll spend a bit more time going into each separately.

  1. The first I call: Active Design – This is the guiding logic that you are creating the presentation for someone – your audience – and therefore consideration of their needs should always guide your content and delivery.
  2. Secondly – Conscious Engagement – This is a reminder that engagement with your audience doesn’t just happen, it is something you have to make happen.
  3. Finally – Creating a Memorable Outcome – this ensures I reframe any presentation from a simple perfunctory information dump into a dialogue or conversation with my audience. The point being that the key to memory creation is participation (be that audible or synaptic)

Ok – Let’s go over these 3 in a bit more detail:

Pillar 1: ACTIVE DESIGN: The first premise of Active Design is to ensure you understand who your audience is. Do your research up front, who are they? where are they from? why are they here? who do they represent? This step is often overlooked, trivialized or even forgotten – don’t let this happen to you! By creatively explaining you know the answers to some of those questions you are already half way to generating empathy with your audience. Empathy is a crucial conversion asset for any lone presenter and an audience of strangers.

Once you demonstrate empathy with your audience, they are primed to connect with you. This like all of my steps should be an active rather than passive consideration as you build and deliver your presentation. Ask yourself: What do they want from me? What specific information do I have that could benefit them? What does success look like for them?

Through careful, Active Design you can lessen an audience’s inherent resistance, and maximize your chances of communicating effectively and easily your message.

Pillar 2: CONSCIOUS ENGAGEMENT – Again here think audience first, content second. Your presentation’s message will only be considered if the acquisition and retention of your audience’s Engagement can be achieved

A key aid here is language selection, this should always be a conscious decision when building any presentation. The level of engagement you achieve can differ significantly simply due to the style of language you choose. The impact of being: direct, logical, detailed or even humorous will differ by audience and/or the material being presented and should be consciously considered to maximize engagement.

Fundamentally the more an audience can relate with you, see your humanity, your honesty and importantly see themselves in you and your stories the stronger the potential for engagement.

Pillar 3: Creating a MEMORABLE OUTCOME – Remember the goal here is to reframe your presentation as a conversation. To drive the audience’s engagement to such a level that they are not just passively listening to you, but they are interacting with you and remembering your message.

The key here is to be present, not be too scripted. Don’t create an inflexible narrative that prevents questions, instead design for discourse, for exchanges with your audience.

Secondly, actively think about what you are about to say. Growing up my music teacher always challenged me to not only learn the words of a song but to spend time understanding them. By doing this I was better able to deliver a more expressive performance and convey the true emotions and meaning of the songwriter. The same is absolutely true when presenting.

Finally, as I wrap up here…. the art that often crafts a memorable outcome is stage presence, we all probably need to practice this! But it can be as simple as intentionally remembering to look at your audience or to smile at them. For those of us who particularly feel uncomfortable presenting it may help to remember that apparently 95% of us claim to have anxiety when presenting. That’s ok, if 95% of us have it, our audience will expect it. And this fact alone might help you to emotionally connect with them. I always try to remember that the butterflys we often feel in our stomach are simply adrenaline in another form. The magic is turning this energy into something good and memorable.

Well thank you for listening, I hope you found this Podcast useful and the next time you give a presentation I hope I nudged you to think audience first and content second. Good luck.

Thank you for joining us for this week’s “Five-minute Epiphanies How to Mine the Mess for Success: Tips, Snippets and Stories.”  For more information check us out at www.stepupleadership.com. Join us next week when Debbie will be talking about what it takes to champion change.

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