One of the foundational lessons from any presentation skills course is that the audience is the star of the show. Whether you are pitching a new idea, updating your team on quarterly results, or presenting a strategy to senior management, your success largely depends on your ability to connect with your audience.
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To truly make an impact, you need to understand your audience and tailor your content to resonate with them. Unfortunately, many presenters overlook this crucial aspect and end up delivering a message that falls flat.
Understand Your Audience’s State
One aspect of understanding your audience is being aware of their ‘state’—how they may be feeling about your presentation topic. We can usually group the audience into one of three emotional states in relation to your presentation message:
- Ready to hear your message
- Resistant to hearing your message
- Apathetic towards your message.
Understanding these states and adjusting your approach accordingly can really help you to connect to your audience and thus maximise the chance of them really listening to you.
Tailoring Your Approach
1. For audiences ready to hear your message:
When your audience is receptive, go all out and demonstrate conviction and confidence in your content and the perspective you’re taking on the topic. Show your research clearly, identify any next steps, but also welcome dialogue. Audience involvement can enhance their understanding and buy-in.
2. For apathetic audiences:
An indifferent audience can be disheartening, but it’s essential to keep your energy high. Start with a strong hook to grab their attention and continuously communicate the value of your information. Focus on the ‘so what’ of your topic – why they should care. Unless people understand why they should care, they’re very likely to tune out.
When facing resistance, it’s important to demonstrate empathy towards the audience’s feelings and thoughts. However, avoid claiming to know exactly you’re your audience is thinking or feeling, as this can backfire – you can never be absolutely sure of their feelings. Instead, use a technique called ‘pacing’ to align with their current state before leading them towards your message. Encourage early dialogue and approach their stance with curiosity to foster a more open and constructive conversation.
Next time you prepare for a presentation, take the time to assess the probable state of your audience. If you’re unsure, find out! A little forward planning can make you feel more prepared and confident, ultimately leading to a more successful presentation.
Remember, the goal is not just to deliver information, but to connect with your audience and inspire action. Tailoring your approach to your audience’s state can make all the difference.