As Dale Carnegie once said, “There is no sweeter sound to any person’s ear than the sound of their own name…”
Successful presentations connect with the audience and gain their attention. Here are 12 questions to help facilitate that process.
- What do they have in common? Is the audience made up of friends, colleagues, suppliers, customers or are they all strangers to each other? Think about what defines them – are they millennials, did they all go to college, and do they have shared problems or ambitions? More of which later.
- Why have they come to listen to you today? What are they hoping to take away from your talk/presentation? What’s in it for them?
- Why were you invited to talk? There must be something about you, and your expertise that the organizers feel will be of interest to the audience? What is that quality? Resist the temptation to try and be someone you are not, audiences will already have expectations about who you are.
- What problems do members of your audience have in common? Understanding a common problem and offering a solution is one of the most powerful ways to connect with any audience. They will be expecting to hear a new perspective on a shared problem. They will want to hear something new, something that gives them an advantage.
- Opportunities go hand in hand with problem-solving. What opportunities do the members of your audience have in common? Stimulate their imagination, outline what needs to be done, and finally give them the confidence to take action after the presentation.
- How does your audience naturally communicate? What cultural differences might exist within the audience? Do they have industry specific terminology and jargon that they use? The reason for asking yourself these questions is so that you can effectively communicate with your audience.
- Talk in a way that is familiar to your audience. While remaining authentic – trying out a Scottish accent when you give your presentation in Edinburgh could be a bad idea, unless it’s humorous.
- Is there a role for humor in your presentation? There are some events, cultures, and topics where humor would be inappropriate. Very few people can tell a funny story to a large audience and get a reaction. Self-deprecating humor can endear you to an audience, however, use it sparingly or it will raise doubts about your credibility.
- How long do you need to talk for to effectively communicate your key messages? You may have been given a fixed time slot and have little or no flexibility. There are no absolute answers to this question – it’s a matter of how much time do you need. Too long and the audience will lose their focus, and their attention will drift. Too short and they will leave not understanding the points that you were trying to communicate.
- Will you need visual aids? If you are thinking about typing bullet points onto PowerPoint slides – don’t waste your time. Put that same energy into a few graphic style visuals which support the points you are making. In this age of CGI, AR and VR peoples audio visual expectations are sky high.
- How should you speak? Become thoroughly familiar with any sound equipment ahead of your talk and if there is any possibility of a rehearsal then take it. Make sure you convey the enthusiasm and passion that you genuinely feel for your chosen topic.
- Should you make eye contact? Definitely. Look directly at your audience and shift your focus around the audience as you talk. Your goal is to make everyone feel like you are talking directly to them. Establishing this personal connection is essential for you and your audience.
- Should I write a script? If your presentation will be simultaneously translated into other languages, then a script is appreciated, especially if there is technical content. In any case, always create a structure and do list out your bullet points.
This list of questions is by no means definitive, and you can fine tune it over time to suit your style and the occasion.
Bottom line, do your preparation and gain a thorough understanding of your audience. Who are they? What do they have in common? What do they want from your talk?