The first commandment of mindful presenting is, to respect your audience.
The most precious resource we all have, is of course time. Each time we present we are using peoples most valuable asset, time.
We live in such a fast-paced world with so many demands on our time that we scarcely find moments to value the minutes that pass us by so furiously.
It’s no wonder than one of the greatest sources of anxiety is our fear of wasting our audience’s time. We all inherently know that no one has time to listen to us unless we have something worthwhile to say. That’s often why so many presenters speak so quickly, telling their audience everything they know rather, than what their audience actually need to know.
The following 9 principles will help you to respect your audience.
A couple of years ago I spent a sizable sum of money to attend a full day conference organised by one of the most established networking organisations in London. Their promise was to show me how to, ‘Harness technology for business growth’. I spent the entire day listening to some of the biggest and most successful brands in the world tell me how fabulous they were.
As I was already a customer of most of the them, I learned nothing new and nothing aligned to their promise.
Respecting our audience means that we have to leave our egos at home and not use their time to tell them how much we know and how great we are. Our job is to tell our audience how we can help them. How what we have to say will make a difference to their professional or personal lives.
Respect means doing whatever it takes in advance to learn as much as you possibly can about your audience.
Don’t make assumptions that what you have to say will be of interest or value to them. Ask them.
Phone them or send them an email telling them what you have in mind and ask them how helpful that would be. More importantly, ask what they want, need and expect from you.
I used to have a boss who was always generous in telling me what a good presenter I was but how what I presented wasn’t what he wanted. My polite response was that I wasn’t a mind reader. How could he possibly expect me to know what he wanted?
After that conversation he told me in advance what he wanted and expected. I learned from my own mistake and now I always ask.
I once created for myself the very unfortunate and unintentional situation of upsetting a delegate on one of our workshops. During the section where we were discussing and exploring bad habits, she told me that her bad habit was that she doesn’t prepare for a presentation.
I replied saying, ‘I don’t think that’s a bad habit.
She smiled thinking that all was well.
I then went on to say that ‘I think it’s more of a bad attitude’, stressing that, I was only being serious if she was. I explained that if she genuinely didn’t prepare then she was disrespecting her audience and had no right to present to them.
Not preparing is not a way to respect your audience.
We all have to prepare. No exceptions.
The old saying ‘practice makes perfect’ is a little misleading. You can practice something exhaustively but that doesn’t necessarily make you good at it. We owe it to our audience when presenting to practice our presentation by.
– Internalising our message.
– Understanding, how do we actually sound when we speak. What works and what doesn’t work when we express ourselves vocally.
– Knowing how we look when presenting. How do we stand, how much eye contact do we make, how do we gesture?
I don’t know many people who enjoy sitting through business presentations. Everyone I know (myself included) likes a good conversation.
Don’t be the one who is doing all of the talking.
Ask your audience questions and give them time to respond. Challenge and stimulate their thinking by crafting a conversation rather than a lecture.
Don’t overwhelm them with data.
They don’t need it all, won’t remember it and won’t thank you for it. Imagine you are are panning your data for gold and give them only the big shiny nuggets.
The best way to not respect your audience is by reading your slides to them. The moment you do so you are telling them that they can’t read. Despite what we have been led to believe, your audience can’t read and listen to you effectively at the same time.
Use images, make them clear, creative and compelling.
Stick to one idea per slide, make it bold, make it relevant and make it matter.
Respect your audience visually as well as verbally.
Anyone can present with varying levels of confidence and clarity. Millions of us are doing it every single day in businesses all over the world. Our greatest challenge and the mistake many professionals make is not being explicitly clear in our own minds how we want our audience to feel.
The greatest way to connect with your audience is to help them to feel something.
The very first thing we have to do is to decide exactly what we want our audience to feel when we have finished speaking.
In the absence of that clarity your audience are unlikely to feel anything positive.
Have you ever sat through a business presentation and left the room not knowing exactly what the presenter wants you to do with all of that information they just shared with you?
If you have, you’re very lucky as it doesn’t always happen.
It doesn’t matter how rich your content is, how stunning your slides are or how compelling your message is. You have to tell your audience what you want them to do next.
Don’t leave them guessing.
Your audience to connect with you and your message.
The best way to respect your audience is by making the effort to really connect with them
– Make eye contact
– Be honest
– Be open
– Tell them stories
– Be authentic
– Be passionate
If you would like to learn more about how to respect your audience:
– Book yourself onto a powerful public speaking course.
– Invest in some really good one to one public speaking coaching.
– Get yourself some excellent presentation training
Image courtesy of: istockphoto.com