June 21, 2008

Play to your strengths, but make sure it serves the audience

Twice in the past week, I've had clients tell me about aspects of their presentations that they do because they're good at it. Not because it suits the audience's needs, or even that the audience particularly appreciates it.

It's okay to do what you're good at and what you enjoy doing. After all, why give presentations if you're not having a good time?

But keep in mind that, just because you are skilled at some aspect of presenting your message, it doesn't mean your audience is benefiting from it.

Pay attention to the audience's body language. Pay attention to the feedback you're getting in your evaluations. Do they start shifting in their seats and looking at the clock when you're reading from your book? Do they seem halfhearted when you have them do your favorite icebreaker exercise?

Read the audience before, during and after your presentation, and if something isn't working, ask yourself why. Can you cut back on the amount of time the activity takes? Can you revise it so it's more audience-friendly?

If you can't make it work after trying it several different ways, dump it.

Keep trying new things, and by all means, do what you love. But if the audience isn't responding, then it's not worth it to you or them to hang onto an ineffective activity.

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2 comments. Please add yours! :

Anonymous said...


Thanks for making this post. This is a personal pet peeve of mine.

The most successful presentations are made by those who connect with their audience.

Connecting is a lot of things: communicating, associating, relating. Connecting with your audience involves them in the core of what you are saying in your presentation, in the ideas and information you are giving them. At a deeper level, you’re not just giving a speech; you’re creating a two-way interchange based on common interests.

Now, if a speaker does something very well but it isn't apropos to the audience, it really shouldn't be included. This will hinder creating a connection.

Lisa Braithwaite said...

So true, Terry. It's all about connection!

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