Get into your audience’s skin

Presentations are all about people. So it makes sense that every inspiring presentation starts not with the content or the presenter in mind, but with the people it was intended for – your audience.

Carolyn Tate, a marketing guru and friend, once asked a financial planner who his audience was and he replied “Anybody with a pulse really”. The last thing we ever want to hear you say is your presentation is for everybody – with a pulse. That is the only way to ensure your presentation will fail.

There are three questions you must be able to answer before you begin any presentation:

  1. Who is your audience?
  2. What motivates them?
  3. What do they want from my presentation?

Research your audience.  It doesn’t matter if your audience is made up of your internal team that you know well or a bunch of total strangers, you must still be able to identify what their common problems and frustrations are. This is when you really start to live in your audience’s skin. You start to see the world like they do.

 A senior leader at a large financial organisation was presenting across the board to different levels of employees on a major change initiative, touting it as better way to do business, gain a competitive edge and improve shareholder value. She admitted that most people would be there because it was compulsory.

 Thinking about it more, she realised that the new change initiative would make everyone’s work and life so much easier. She also discovered she’d been pitching the project at too high a level so it sounded lofty in what it could achieve. While the project excited her, it was absolutely meaningless for her audience. With this new insight, she rewrote her presentation with the angle “I’m here to make your life and work easier”. Consequently, she enjoyed a much more positive response.

 Why is walking in your audience’s shoes, living in their skin so important? People need to feel you understand them first. As Stephen Covey says in his best seller ‘The 7 Habits of highly effective people’, seek to understand before being understood. Show your audience you understand them first and they will be open to connecting and understanding you.

 Of course, this needs to be done in an authentic, genuine and sincere way. Nothing stinks more than the feeling that someone’s faking it. Your audience will sense this immediately be immediately turned on.  But on the other hand nothing is  a bigger turn on for an audience than feeling ‘This presenter really gets me’.

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  • Grace Blau

    Excellent article that conveys an important message clearly and succinctly. When I have been part of an audience, nothing has infuriated me more than a presenter who pretends to understand me, but, by the words used and issues raised in their presentation, so obviously does not.

    • Yamini Naidu

      Thank you Grace and interesting to get the perspective of a member of the audience of how this makes people feel when done wrong or poorly. As Albert Einstein said “Any fool can know. The point is to understand.” I guess even worse is to pretend to understand your audience?!

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