When to think about your presentation audience

Many speakers focus all their pre-speech time on brainstorming, selecting and organizing the ideas and details on what they find most important about a topic. Whether they bring unique or already-prepared messages to their audiences, often the only focus they have is in what they want to say. That’s when they get in their own way.

Although a speech needs to be for the benefit of a speaker’s audience, many speakers see their presentation differently. For these careless speakers, the time they think about their audience is moments before they begin, as they network and mingle, hoping to capture comments and ideas they can work into their message.

Consequently, these speakers have their message focus but they don’t necessarily have their audience’s attention. They don’t have what the listeners need, nor how to relate their ideas to the listeners. This “relating” comes through casual conversation on speech day, yet it is too late.

Here’s why the above approach doesn’t work:

The speaker is presenting ideas that work for him/her, not for the listeners, hoping the audience likes their message. They hope that if they can find a way to relate it to listeners, they will be fully engaged and appreciative. What they forget is, listeners are not motivated to listen to someone else’s ideas unless the ideas relate to their circumstances.

As speakers, we need to get out of the way of our message, stop being selfish and begin to relate what our listeners need to hear, in language that is meaningful to them. We need to think about our audience during our planning and rehearsal phase, not simply the day of the delivery.

Ask yourself the following to keep your audience in mind as you plan:

1. What experiences does my audience have with my topic?

2. Based on these experiences, what do they NEED to know?

3. What would be their motivation to implement my ideas?

Now you can plan your message for the upcoming audience. Are you giving a presentation you’ve given before? Ask yourself Questions #1 and #2, then review your outline from your prepared presentation. Do you need to modify an idea or research for specifics from listener circumstances that you can relate your ideas to?

Rehearse your revised message. What you deliver to your listeners is based on what your body has experienced before. So unless you stand up and rehearse aloud the carefully modified message, you will give the wrong talk. Rehearse for your flow, for an audience connection and for continuity.

Think about your next audience during all three phases of your message delivery: planning, rehearsing and delivery. That day, review what you know about your audiences’ experiences, needs and motivations. What level of experiences do they have with the topic? What do they need to know? Even if what they need to hear is difficult, what is their motivation to not only hear it but apply it? Let all this motivate you to set the tone, be energized and focus on what is most important for them to know on this topic.

Remember, your role as a presenter is to get out of the way during your planning, rehearsing and delivery so your audience can benefit.

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