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’.

How to make your key messages sexy?

Every time I read my twitter feed I always seem to click on the links Mia Freedman suggests…even if it’s not something I’m really interested in!  Mia has mastered the art of a compelling attention grabbing head line that even a time poor information overloaded twitter user is loathe to go past.  Imagine if we applied that same practice to the key messages in our presentations.  The way we presented our key message made our audience immediately click with us, and what we are trying to say.

Most messages in presentations are pretty stock standard, and come in only one flavour bland.  So how can you sex up your key messages?

When we say sexy we mean packaging your key messages so they are a memorable repeatable sound bite.  This is not about ‘dumbing down’ your messages or using corporate jargon this is about ‘smarting down’ your messages in a way people will connect and remember.  So here are our top tips, and they all involve leaving your clothes on!

Tip 1: ‘Smart down’ your message
Find the right words to say what you have said – but words that are memorable and grab people’s attention.

Look to newspaper headlines for inspiration.  Who can past the New York Post’s most famous headline ‘Headless body in topless bar’.  A less gruesome  and more recent example is from one of workshop participants, Tim.  Tim’s key message was ‘Results from last year’ which were spectacular.  Quite a stock standard message. He made it sexy by calling this first message ‘Why I love you?”. So in his presentation he said ‘I want to start by telling you why I love you’.  KABOOM! We are sure he would have everyone’s attention.  Compare that with the more conventional start of ‘I am here to share last year’s results’.  YAWN boring.

Another participant Michael was also presenting Sales Targets for 2013.  He repackaged it to say ‘Living your dream in 2013’ and  said ‘I’m here to show you how you can live your dream in 2013’, needless to say he had everyone hanging on to his every word.

Tip 2: Spin it:
What if you have a boring message that has already been said?  Your challenge in sexing it up is, to think about a different spin you can put on it?

We are going to use the title of books to help you.

Stephen Covey wrote the first best seller on productivity – how to increase your productivity.  But he didn’t call it that. He called it ‘The 7 habits of highly effective people’.  Imagine starting a presentation by saying ‘I’m here to share the 7 habits of highly effective people’.

Just when we thought the productivity thing was done and dusted along came David Allan with his ‘Get Things Done’.  That title is his one and only key message and again another bestseller.  Surely there was no other way to package this key message.  But viola we now have another bestseller with Timothy Ferris’s ‘The 4 hour week’, again the key message is in the title.  Imagine the lure the promise of these titles.  They are sexy!  That’s what we want from you key messages with chutzpah, with flair, that can excite and enthrall your audience.

Tip 3: Short is sexy
And finally your sexy message must be short – 15 seconds to 30 seconds maximum.  Before we discovered the lure of the sexy key message we used to say ‘Storytelling can help you increase your sales by more effectively engaging with your customers’. Now our new, sexy short version.  ‘Facts tell, Story sells’.

Remember that saying ‘it’s not what you say, it s how you say it.  THAT”S CRAP… We live in a content rich world, so the only way you can help your audience find you in a tsumani of information is by focusing on ‘what you say’.  Yes of course how you say it matters but it is what you say that counts.  So for your next presentation remember to sex up your key messages, ‘Smart down’ your message by finding the right words, put a new spin on it and keep it short.  Who knows your next key message might replace that New York Times headline as the most memorable ever?