The Local Elections took place recently. We had the usual parade of candidates calling to the door, handing us their literature and asking us to give them our number one vote on polling day. It’s a tough job. I admire anyone who puts themselves forward for public office, and I don’t envy them the task of canvassing door to door for weeks on end.
But what has this to do with public speaking?
One candidate stood out for me. My husband answered the door, so I overheard the interaction. Instead of the usual asking for the vote, this candidate asked was there anything my husband wanted to know about him, or about the Council. This impressed me, and it’s a lesson we can learn when delivering a speech or presentation.
It’s about the audience. The candidate showed an awareness of the voter and was open to addressing any concerns the voter might have. During our presentations, we need to show that same awareness of our audience. What are their concerns and interests? If we are telling our story, it needs to relate to the audience. If they can’t identify with it, then they won’t listen.
7 Steps to Making the Audience Central to Your Presentation
- It begins with your preparation. Think about the audience- who they are, what their concerns are. What previous knowledge do they have about your topic? What questions might they have? What resistance could they have to your ideas?
- How can you clearly demonstrate that what you are offering will be of benefit to them? Why should they listen to you?
- Keep jargon to a minimum and use as little data as possible. Keep your presentation easy for them to understand. There is no benefit in bombarding the audience with lots of information. If they need more, they can ask!
- Involve them! Create opportunities for them to engage with your presentation. This could be done with relevant stories, questions or humour, for example.
- If you’re using slides, make them easy for the audience to read. That background colour you choose might look great, but if the audience can’t read the font against it, then you’re wasting your time. Make sure the text is large enough to read in the room where you will be presenting. Slides should help the audience to better understand, or remember, your presentation.
- Eye contact! Make sure that you connect with the audience by having eye contact throughout your presentation.
- You need to be heard clearly from all parts of the room. Do a soundcheck in advance so that you know the volume required, or if you need a microphone.
If you follow these steps, you are showing care for your audience, and you are setting yourself up for a better presentation.
As for the politician- even though I didn’t meet him, his approach made me more open to reading his material and considering him for a vote. Open up your audience to receiving your ideas.
If you would like to see how I could work with you or your team to help create and deliver presentations with impact, contact me for a no-obligation call.