Do you think your job is to deliver information in a presentation? Be memorable instead! Here are 4 ways to engage and influence audiences.
Do you live in the world of your audience to engage and influence them? Or are you focused on delivering information, thinking that once listeners get it, they'll have all they need?
There's a better way. It involves understanding what your audience needs then building a presentation that gives them exactly that. And there's an easy formula for doing so.
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Let's look at four ways your presentation can engage your audience while you're giving it AND influence them after you stop speaking—instead of sinking without a trace.
Hey Speaker . . . Watch Out for that Iceberg!
Talking about sinking—and icebergs—is helpful when considering how to reach and motivate audiences.
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The Wrong First Step. What's the first thing you think of when you know you have to give a presentation? Your topic, right? "What am I going to talk about?" But there's another "small-'w'" question you should ask yourself first: not "what?" but "who?" After all, until you know as much as possible about your listeners and what their needs are, how do you know what you should share with them?
In other words, it's easy to jump right into putting together the content of our speech before considering the people who are going to listen to it! This is where the iceberg comes in. We all know that 10% of an iceberg is visible above the water, and 90% of it exists, invisibly, below the surface. And we understand what that means to any ships passing in the vicinity of one of these behemoths. But we're often as guilty as lazy ship lookouts when we prepare a presentation. We opt for the easily visible 10% (our content), instead of the enormous expanse of other factors that listeners perceive from our talk—that is, the other ninety percent.
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So, let's look at that iceberg again, this time from your audience's point of view:
Clearly, we should all spend more time thinking about what our audience really needs from our talk—always much more than heaps of data thrown at them. If we can figure that out, we'll have a much better chance of engaging them while we speak, as well as having a continuing influence on their thoughts, feelings, and behavior.
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The 4 Steps to Creating Influence with Audiences
Given the above, here is a four-step process for taking your audience on a journey to somewhere they actually want to go.
1. Conduct an audience analysis. Some things will be obvious to you about your audience, such as demographics, level of knowledge and experience, and cultural considerations. But two of the most important things you need to know are expectations and preferences. Just speaking to different levels in the hierarchy of an organization should clue you in that these two constituencies may differ greatly in terms of what they're looking for. Also, consider whether you or your team have a track record with this audience. If so, you can arm yourself by knowing how they are likely to respond. And don't ignore emotional considerations on the part of listeners.
2. Determine your specific purpose. Once you understand who your listeners are and what they need from you, you can decide on your purpose in speaking to them. And consider this: the more specific you make your purpose in your own mind, the easier it will be to achieve. For instance, you can inform your sales team about the new software. But if you want to inspire them to sell it, you will need to bring in slightly different content (wouldn't you say, for instance, that inspirational stories would be helpful for the latter?). Knowing your specific purpose is a key element in understanding what you need to include in terms of content.
3. Create the content. Now, by placing "create the content" in the third position rather than where you start, you have given yourself direction where there might previously have been none. It's far too easy to say, "Oh, I'm an expert in this area, so I'll talk about this. I'll bring in this, and some of that, and I'd better start putting it all together in a PowerPoint deck." Apart from not having the determined path of an arrow speeding straight for its target, how would you know whether you're succeeding with these listeners or not?
4. Decide how to engage them. Now, for the lawyers among you, here's a leading question: Once you've put together the material for your talk, you're all set, right? Finished . . . ready to go, armed for combat, etc.? Well, no (as leading questions might lead you to respond). Event graveyards are full of public speakers who were experts in their fields but didn't engage their audience for a second. (Think of the last professional conference you attended.) Let's say you followed steps 1-3 above. You now have content that's perfectly selected and shaped to impact listeners. Now, to make sure it does, think about how you plan to engage them. This is where the tools of rhetoric, stage performance, varying the modes of how you're reaching people, including demonstrations, volunteers or video clips, and all the rest of it come in. Presentations can actually be exciting events for audiences. I'm just sayin'.
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Gary Genard is an actor, author, and expert in public speaking training and overcoming speaking fear. His company, Boston-based The Genard Method offers live 1:1 Zoom executive coaching and corporate group training worldwide. In 2021 for the eighth consecutive year, Gary has been ranked by Global Gurus as One of the World’s Top 30 Communication Professionals. He is the author of the Amazon Best-Seller How to Give a Speech. His second book, Fearless Speaking, was named in 2019 as "One of the 100 Best Confidence Books of All Time." His latest book is The Online Meetings Handbook, now available at The Genard Method and at Amazon. To know more about TGM's services, Contact Gary here.