January 31, 2013

Are you answering your audience's #1 question?



Have you ever been in the audience when a speaker was "preaching to the choir?" You understand and support the cause, so you don't need to be convinced?

Some of us, as speakers, are lucky enough to have audiences like that all the time, but most of us usually have some occasional or frequent persuading to do.

This came to mind during a talk I attended this morning on climate change. I'm a believer, and I'm in favor of the kinds of measures the speaker described that can reduce the damage we humans do to the environment. But I had a problem -- even though I'm a believer and supporter, I still wasn't feeling the personal impact from listening to the speaker.

Even though I saw images of fires, floods, storms and droughts, as well as positive solutions, I still found myself thinking, "What does this mean to ME?"

Of course, the reason I was thinking this was that it's my job to make sure I make my content relevant to my readers' and audiences' lives. And it's my job to teach my clients how to do the same. I look at every presentation the same way.

So while I was listening to this very convincing and persuasive presentation, I also wondered how this topic could be made more personal.

Instead of saying "We want to save the planet for our children and grandchildren" (which is a valid argument), what could the speaker say instead that's not about future generations but about all of us still living on the planet right now?

I can't say I have the answer, as I'm not informed enough about the topic to necessarily know what the personal impacts are besides saving money (which we all enjoy!) by doing things like installing solar and driving hybrid or electric cars.

Anyway, my intention is not to try and fix her speech right here on the blog; after all, it was an effective presentation in lots of ways. What I do want to do is make you, my dear reader, aware of this issue in your own presentations.

Have you thought about how your topic affects the individuals in the room? Right now?

If so, congratulations! You're way ahead of most speakers. Now that you've thought about it, how are you implementing it?

This is related to the "So What?" factor, by the way. Your audience is constantly asking "So what?" as in: "What does this mean to me?" They're asking. Are you answering?

If you've thought through how the individuals in your audience are impacted by your topic, and you've implemented ways to demonstrate, illustrate and make that crystal clear to your audience, your presentations will have much greater effect.

Sure, there are lots of people who want to save the planet because they believe it's the right thing to do, whether or not they experience a particular personal outcome besides feeling good about their contribution.

But for most of us, this and other high-stakes issues we constantly see in the media tend to combine together into a vague, nebulous "problem" that someone needs to solve. But it's too complicated and too vast for one person to make a difference (or so we believe).

And when we don't see how we're affected and we don't see what we as individuals can do to make changes, things don't change. Your audiences don't act. And isn't there always something we want our audiences to do as a result of our presentations? Absolutely!

How are you showing your audiences the personal impact of your topic on their lives? How are you showing them the personal impact of their action or inaction?

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