Dale Carnegie’s How to Win Friends and Influence People is full of intuitive advice about life– precious little gems that seem so commonsensical that there’s probably a good chance you haven’t even thought about them. One of those bits of advice is that you can only make people do what you want them to do by making them want to it for themselves, and something that people want more than most everything else is a feeling of importance. People have an innate craving to be appreciated; Carnegie says it’s the chief difference between animals and humans. Here are some tips on how to make your audience feel important during your next presentation.
Show Some Respect
Countless philosophers have said it many different ways, but John Dewey put it most succinctly: “the deepest urge in human nature is ‘the desire to be important.’” If that is truly the deepest urge found in the average person (and ask yourself– do you wish to feel important?), you should be sure to find a way to appeal to that desire in your presentation.
The easiest way to do that is by simply showing your audience some respect. Don’t talk down to them, and certainly don’t act as if you’re smarter or more successful than them. Avoid jargon, and avoid the dreaded Curse of Knowledge. Speak at a level that’s accessible and try to be relatable and easy going. Be respectful of your audience.
The power of showing your audience respect is lost without including this next tip, which is to be sincere. Show genuine appreciation for your audience. Thank them profusely and sincerely for their time and their attention. Encourage them to feel important by relating how grateful you are for this opportunity to speak to them.
Importantly, Carnegie encourages sincerity and admonishes flattery. The latter will not get you far. People know when they are being duped. But if you are unendingly gracious in your appreciation for your audience’s time and attention, it will not go unnoticed. On the contrary, in fact, as sincere appreciation will give your audience a feeling of importance, a feeling that you are very aware that their time is precious.
Mad About You
Another simple way to make your audience feel important is to talk to them about themselves. Wait– you were going to do anyways? Perfect! Two birds, one stone. We like to talk about ourselves, and we like to hear people talk about us. It makes us feel important when the topic at hand has everything to do with our lives, our problems, our concerns, our successes, etc.
Blatantly appeal to your audience’s concerns, interests and needs, but remember to not flatter or feign interest. Be sincere. People know the difference between feigned emotion and real interest. Make your audience feel important with your unwavering (genuine) concern for all things related to them.