There are a lot of different devices and techniques you can use to nail your next presentation. For instance, a killer presentation will almost always tell a compelling story. It will also have plenty of data to contextualize and legitimize that story. And, of course, it should include visualizations of that data to help break down complex concepts into easy-to-understand, digestible nuggets of information.
Now, we’re not here to tell you not to do those things. Quite the opposite, in fact. All of those techniques are critical ingredients for an awesome presentation. But if you really want your presentation to connect, resonate, and inspire, then there’s one public speaking component that surpasses all others in terms of importance. Ready for it?
The secret to great public speaking is showing your audience why they should care.
You can have the greatest idea in the world and tell a killer story with it, but if your audience doesn’t connect to it; if they don’t understand why they should be invested, then nothing you say will matter.
A lot of speakers with amazing ideas make the mistake of getting lost in why they care rather than why the audience needs to care. If that sounds like you, don’t sweat it–you’re not alone. It’s an incredibly easy trap to fall into. After all, presumably the reason you’re presenting in the first place is because you care deeply about the message you’re trying to deliver. That combined with the fact that presenting can be all kinds of nerve-wracking. This makes it difficult to step outside of your head and think about the audience’s needs—but despite that difficulty, it’s critical that you do it.
However, wanting to make your audience care and actually getting your audience to care are two very different things. Fortunately, there are a few simple steps you can take during your public speaking preparations to make it a whole lot easier.
If you want someone to care about something, then you have to know what they care about; what they value as human beings. And there are a number of different methods that will help you do that. You can ask the event organizer about what the audience is hoping to gain from the talk and whether there are any common denominators. For example, is everyone looking to improve their marketing efforts? Their leadership skills? You can also do your own research using good ol’ Google. Look for recent news stories or articles that are relevant to your particular audience’s interests and industries and write down any valuable insights or takeaways.
A great way to get out of your head and into your audience needs is to continually ask yourself how your audience will change after they receive the message you’re delivering. If your answer is, “they won’t” then you have some work to do. Seth Godin said it best: “A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.” Anticipating that your idea will create change will help to focus your public speaking efforts on ways to activate your audience to take action. If your audience feels compelled to take action, then you can rest easy knowing that they most definitely care about what you’re saying.
For people to care about anything, they generally need to feel like they’re part of that thing in some way. That means that including them in your presentation is immensely helpful in making them feel invested. And “by including” we mean actual participation. Talking about their needs isn’t typically enough; inviting them to talk about their needs will take you a lot farther. Ask meaningful questions throughout your talk and allow time for the audience to answer in meaningful ways. It’s also helpful to invite them to share any insight, tips, or techniques they have with respect to your topic. Generally, the more interactive your presentation is, the more your audience will care.
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