For your next presentation, think of your audience as your friends.
While I have loads of wonderful friends here in Italy, my inner-circle is comprised of the above charming ladies. We all have children about the same age and spend plenty of time getting them together for play-dates where we spend plenty of time swapping stories about motherhood – with the added adventure of it taking place in Italy.
We have plenty in common. But, of course, each of us is unique.
Starting from the left, Heather is a former cheerleader from California. Feisty and artistic, she creates some of the most beautiful cakes I have ever seen (witness below Rapunzel’s Tower she whipped up for Lulu’s birthday last fall). She met an Italian engineer named Stefano when they worked together in the US, got married and now she lives in his home town of Arezzo. The next blonde is another Californian. Tall and always ready to cure what ails you with a holistic remedy, Chay more than knows her way around the natural health stores here. She also married an Italian, Max, who is Roman but moved up to Arezzo to run his jewelry design business. My fellow brunette is Charlotte. From Ohio, she is an athlete who inspires the rest of us to get in shape. She and her husband, Kirk, run the Italian study abroad program for the University of Oklahoma. And, the outgoing gal who first reached out and introduced me to the other three is Pavlina. She’s originally from the Czech Republic and can tell you some incredible stories about growing up under Communism. She met her Italian husband, Francesco, when they were both living in London but now they live together here in Arezzo.
I tell you this because if I were going to give a presentation in front of them, I would need to take some time to step back from my intended speech and really think about who these women are.
- What do they hope to get from my speech?
- What makes them distinct from other people for whom I have presented?
- Why have these ladies agreed to come and sit before me and listen to me speak?
- What can I say that will make this worth their time?
You get the idea, but how many of you have ever really done this exercise?
It takes time and effort to truly focus on your audience. You are likely not giving a presentation for friends you already know well, so do some research. Ask around. Find out as much as you can beforehand about your audience group.
Suzanne Bates, a consultant I had the privilege of having lunch with in Monaco last year, advises in her book, Speak Like a CEO, that you should draft two agendas for your presentation. The first is yours and the second is an agenda based solely on the expectations of your audience. Now throw yours out!
If you don’t fully consider your audience, you’ll miss an opportunity to fully engage them.
When CNN sent me to “anchor school” (yes, they really did), my coach said that every story I read on-air should be delivered considering the “hopes, dreams or fears” of my audience. That advice was for reading from a teleprompter before a TV audience I couldn’t see.
How much more then, must you consider before you present before a real-live group of people?
A group made up of unique individuals. Like the members of my “mommies” group – who also enjoy our occasional “mommies’ night out” parties. Sometimes a little too much.
But that is NOT going to be blogged about here!
Here’s to your next presentation: Climb down from your tower, and connect!