If there’s a presentation sin that we get subjected to repeatedly, it’s the sin of irrelevance. Presentations that don’t serve the audience, that leave us confused, bored – even resentful.
An example – a few months ago we were at a seminar for businesses that were interested in exporting their products or services. Two speakers stood out – one because his presentation was so useful – the other because his was so useless, to us anyway.
The useful presentation had value to us because the presenter had obviously thought about what we, as an audience, would find most valuable, what we would want to know the most. And he answered our questions in his presentation. We wrote notes and committed to use the information he provided. His presentation made a positive difference.
In contrast, the other speaker talked about things that were of interest to him. But, predictably, they were of no interest or use to us the audience. He hadn’t considered what we wanted to know or why we were there. Of course we all sat there politely pretending to listen (except a few lucky souls who were sitting near the door who decided to make an early exit!). It was a relief when his presentation ended – this speaker did his cause and his business no good, simply because he didn’t weave the audience into the presentation.
Are you guilty of this sin? Unless you’ve run your speech past other people and asked them for feedback, it’s likely that you’re unconscious of the material that you’re presenting that the audience doesn’t need, want or care about – the information that should be left out. If your audiences look bored, confused or annoyed with you when you present, it could be that your presentation is not designed to meet their needs – it simply meets yours.
How do you ensure that your talk will be useful to your audience?
First ask yourself some key questions about the audience:
- What is their level of knowledge of the topic of your presentation?
- What is their level of interest in your topic?
- Do they have to be there or are they attending voluntarily?
Then design the structure of your talk using a structure. To use this structure you imagine that you are an audience member and think of all the questions that you’d be asking yourself such as:
Who is this speaker? What are they going to talk about? Why should I be interested in this? What will I get out of it? How do I use the information? What results might I get? Where is the evidence that these ideas work?
These are just a few of the questions that your audience is asking.
If your talk answers these questions, then your talk will be relevant and your audience will reward you with their attention and interest.