If you are a presenter or public speaker the one thing you can be certain of is that your audience want you to help them. They want you to feel comfortable and confident in their presence so that may relax and feel the same. If you have something of value to say that will make a difference to their personal or professional lives they will listen to you intently.
Every presenter should however be very mindful of the fact that there are certain things your audience won’t forgive you for.
“Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.” Confucius
1. That’s the first thing you won’t be forgiven for; lack of preparation.
It’s always abundantly clear whether a presenter has done his homework and made the effort to learn as much as possible as they can about their audience in advance. Who they really are, what they care about, what keeps them awake at night, how much they already know and what they really need.
It really doesn’t matter whether you are updating your team, making a sales pitch, reporting to the board or giving a conference keynote, there is one question you need to be very mindful of for everything you tell them and every slide you show them:
The presenter who hasn’t fully and effectively prepared will always have their audience asking themselves that dreaded question in their own minds.
‘So what’ is always quickly followed by:
‘Why are you telling me this?
‘Why does it matter?’
‘Why should I care?’
If your audience find themselves asking those questions they’ll never forgive you.
They say they will, but honestly they won’t.
“If it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist.”
2. If they can ‘Google’ it for themselves then don’t waste their time.
I’ve lost count of the number or conferences, seminars and meetings I’ve attended where speakers have bombarded me with information that I:
– Already know
– Can easily find through Google
– Is obvious
– Is old news
The bottom line is, don’t waste their time. They won’t thank you for it and most wont forgive you either.
Now I know what you’re thinking, ‘wait a minute, everything is on Google so that means I never get to speak’.
That may be so but your job is not to tell them what they can read for themselves; it’s to bring the information to life, add perspective and insight.
If they can ‘Google’ it for themselves then just send them the link.
“There are always three speeches, for every one you actually gave. The one you practiced, the one you gave, and the one you wish you gave.”
3. The third thing they won’t forgive you for is making them uncomfortable.
That means that if you’re visibly very uncomfortable you can be quite certain they will be too.
I don’t mean being nervous. You’re allowed to be nervous, there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that and in fact it shows you’re alive and that you care. Where your audience will get uncomfortable is where you are a jabbering stuttering wreck of a human being.
What’s the best way to get comfortable?
Well funnily enough preparation is the key. Once you’ve prepared thoroughly the next step is to practice just as thoroughly. That doesn’t mean memorize what you have to say, it means practicing your presentation to the point that you are completely comfortable with everything you have to share.
“I can’t stand being around anal people, especially anal people with big egos.”
4. The worst presentations and worst presenters are the self -promoting ones.
Perhaps you’ve come across one or two in your time; if you have you’ll remember them.
An audience will never forgive a presenter who calls them together to listen to how wonderful they are.
It’s called an ego trip
Make your presentation exclusively about your audience and leave yourself out of it.
“If it was something that I really committed myself to, I don’t think there’s anything that could stop me becoming President of the United States.”
5. Nothing shines so brightly as a lack of commitment.
If you’re not totally committed to the ideas and information you’re presenting then rest assured that your audience won’t be either; worse still they will resent the fact that you are wasting their precious time trying to persuade them to take on board an idea you are not convinced about yourself.
Some presentation coaches will simply tell you to ‘fake it until you make it’.
The Mindful Presenters philosophy is, just don’t do it.
If you find yourself in a position where you really have to because your boss told you that you must or it’s just a part of your job then do yourself a life changing favour and find a new job; preferably one where you are committed to the things you need to speak about.
It may sound like a surprising issue to write about but the reality is that it exists. Everyday somewhere in the world someone is presenting information to people that they really don’t believe in themselves.
Whenever that happens your audience has your card marked immediately so please don’t let it be you.
“Dead or alive, interesting people are interesting people”
Noel Riley Fitch
6. Have you ever sat through a really boring presentation?
I don’t think I’ve ever met a single living soul that hasn’t.
It happens every day in just about every organisation in the world and we all know how painful an experience it can be.
Your audience won’t forgive you for presenting something to them which is neither of interest to them or is just not very interesting, so whatever you do make sure it’s stimulating, engaging and captures their interest and curiosity.
If it’s not interesting but they still need to know then send them a short email instead.
Remember though, just because it’s interesting to you doesn’t mean you have the right to impose it on others.
“The only thing that ever consoles man for the stupid things he does is the praise he always gives himself for doing them.”
7. Don’t read your slides to your audience- they really aren’t stupid
If you have so much information on a slide that either you or your audience has to read it then you shouldn’t be presenting it on a slide in the first place.
Email it to them and tell them to give you a call if they have any questions or if you prefer to discuss it in person take it as a handout to discuss in a meeting.
In the year 2016 it’s incredibly surprising how many presentations we still see where the presenter stands with their back to the audience and reads their own slide.
It really is the icing on the cake of unforgivable.
Presenting to any audience regardless of size, status or subject is an enormous privilege and one that shout be treated with the utmost respect.
You only have to do these seven things to earn that respect:
Don’t waste their time
Make it about them not you
Make it interesting
Don’t read slides
They won’t forgive you if you don’t do them.
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