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Public Speaking: Put Your Audience First

Never mind the length; focus on the quality. Often speeches are too long because speakers are pontificating; their primary goal is to showcase their extensive knowledge. How often have you sat and listened to a speech or presentation, willing it to end soon—before you die of boredom? How often have you attended a conference or a corporate retreat and come away with little that was worthwhile or that will help move you toward your goals?

Next time you have the opportunity to address an audience, take a different approach. Think about your audience’s needs and wants, and base your presentation on information that will help them meet their objectives. As a speaker, your appearance at an event or a meeting is more about them than you. Figure out why they are attending the event at which you are speaking. What are they expecting to get out of it? Once you understand their motives, you will be in a better position to talk in a way and about topics that they will embrace.

You may be standing on the stage or at the podium, but you are in service to your audience. Devolve your power to the people sitting in front of you. Putting their needs first will guarantee that your speech is well received. It ensures you will stand out from other presenters.

How do you do this? Study your target audience before you prepare your presentation. If you are speaking at a conference, contact the organizer and ask them what they think the top three pieces of information people in their target audience need. Ask for a list of attendees, then call half a dozen and ask what takeaways they are hoping for.

Assess your prospective audience:

  • Who are they?

  • What positions do they hold?

  • What responsibilities do they have?

  • What do they have to deliver daily to satisfy their bosses?

  • What keeps them awake at night?

  • How educated are they on the topic you will be discussing?

  • How can you help them do whatever they do better?

  • How can you help them be successful?

If this seems like a formidable task, pull back a little and think about the one or two things, based on your experience, that you can tell them that will top the list of their critical takeaways from the event.

Here’s a trick to ensure your presentation doesn’t become too long and dense. First, give yourself free rein and create your speech or presentation without editing. Add in every piece of information you think might be helpful. Always bear in mind the educational level of your audience regarding your subject matter. Don’t talk down to your audience, but don’t talk way over their heads.

Now, imagine it’s the day before the event; the organizer contacts you and tells you that they have had to cut your time by 75% due to unforeseen circumstances. Yikes! What do you do? Take a long look at the audience profile you have built and then look closely at your presentation and identify which three points, or pieces of information, are crucial to the typical attendee. Those are the key takeaways your audience needs. Focus on them, and you will focus on your audience, not yourself.

The rest of the information may still be helpful, but is it more filler than meat? If you are interested in developing a relationship with your audience, offer them ways they can follow up with you to learn more post-event.

What do experts often say? Less is more.

Need support? Contact our office to set up a free business coaching session.

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