The underlying objective of any presentation is to influence the audience to feel, think or act differently in some way. To do this, you need the audience on your side, willing to listen to you and open to be influenced.
You are enthusiastic about your message. But at the beginning of your presentation it’s unlikely the audience will feel the same way. If you don’t acknowledge how the audience are feeling at the start of your talk, they will only see how YOU feel, what YOUR emotions are and this communicates the following to them:
- You don’t understand how they’re feeling.
- There’s a gap between what you feel and what they feel.
- You’re insensitive to their feelings.
- You don’t have a grasp on reality and what it’s like to be in their shoes.
If you try to lead the audience around to your point of view too soon, they will resist because of the reasons above.
When we pace an audience, we let them know we acknowledge what they might be feeling before we attempt to lead them around to our point of view.
“Pacing is not about delivering any of your content, it is about earning the right to deliver your content through demonstrating audience understanding.”
– Tom Bird & Jeremy Cassels from ‘The Leader’s Guide to Presenting’
How to pace an audience
Pace your audience at the beginning of your presention by preparing some statements that demonstrate you understand their concerns.
Ask yourself the following questions:
- What do I need my audience to feel and think to achieve my presentation objective?
- What has been happening in their environment that may influence their feelings and thoughts?
If I were them right now:
- What might I be feeling about this topic?
- What might I be thinking about this topic?
- What might my concerns be around the topic?
Use the answers to these questions to prepare your statements. Use language to indicate what they MIGHT be feeling and thinking; you can never be sure about what they are ACTUALLY feeling and thinking. If you TELL them what they’re feeling it will come across as arrogant and the audience will resist your ideas.
How much to pace
The larger the emotional gap between where your audience are right now and where you need them to be to adopt your ideas, the more pacing you need to do. The audience need to be with you emotionally before you can lead them.
As you move through your talk, be constantly tuned into your audience’s emotional state and be prepared to insert more pacing statements if necessary.
This post is inspired by Tom Bird & Jeremy Cassel from ‘The Leader’s Guide to Presenting’