I was recently working on some items in an Adobe Spark portfolio, when a quote on their homepage reminded me of the importance of having a big picture mindset. It said:

“Sell a good night’s sleep; not a mattress. How can you connect your product or service to a universal emotion?”

I thought, what a great way to think about presentations. What if we let our driving force be a universal emotion or goal rather than a product or policy? But how do we stop selling mattresses and start selling a good night’s sleep?

I think it boils down to two things: clarifying our own goals and then working to expand the goals of our audience. Once we do that, it allows us to both focus on and clearly communicate the big picture.

Clarify Your Goals

In 2007, Steve Jobs delivered a famous keynote speech introducing Apple’s iPhone to the world. At the time he delivered his speech, he had been working with a team to develop this product for over two and a half years. He knew all of the ins and out and technical details. Jobs could impress the audience by spitting out geeky jargon or giving us a “backstage” tour of the iPhone. He could take us back to the beginning of the development and walk us through the process. But that’s not what he did.

If you listen to his speech, you’ll realize that even though he covers many of the bells and whistles of the iPhone, that’s not really what he’s selling. Underneath it all, he’s selling progress and convenience. He knows that the audience will be caught up by the excitement of a product that feels revolutionary and the attractiveness of a product that will make lives easier. So he expands his goals beyond the details that might be the most interesting to him. He moves past his own interests and pushes any information that the audience doesn’t really need to the margins. Because it’s not about him. It’s about the audience. He clarified his goals in relation to what matters most for his audience.

Expand Your Audience’s Goals

You’ve probably heard of ends and means. Ends are the goals that we hope to eventually reach, the final product or outcome. Means are what we use to get there. But your ends and your audience’s ends can be very different, even conflicting sometimes. That doesn’t mean that you need to sacrifice your own goals or ask the audience to sacrifice theirs. Sometimes it just means you need to help your audience see the bigger picture and find the common ground.

Here’s an example. I teach college courses in public speaking. If I were to ask my students what they hope to get out of my class, they’ll probably respond along the lines of getting a certain grade, or passing the course, or just surviving their speeches. And they aren’t wrong in having those goals. Especially when 67% of companies screen candidates by their grade point average. But good goals can still be narrow goals.

It’s my job as a speaker and teacher to help them expand their viewpoints. So I challenge them: Is that really all you want? What if there’s more? Here’s where your clarified goals and the common ground comes in. Jobs could have just sold an iPhone. I can just let my students earn course credit. Those are good, but narrow, goals.

Jobs clarified his goals, examined the bigger picture, and then sold that to his audience. On a much smaller scale and on a much smaller stage, I get to do the same thing. I get to tell my students that public speaking skills will improve their confidence, will help them ace job interviews, will allow them engage in social media more responsibly, will make them better conversationalists and storytellers, and will ultimately allow their voice to be added to the grand choir shaping the very world we live in.

Like a mattress salesman, or Steve Jobs, I have find the place where my goals meet my audience’s goals, and then drive my presentation towards the bigger picture. And when you get up to present, so do you.

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