Take The Focus Off Yourself For A More Dynamic, Memorable Presentation.
BY MICHELLE MAZUR, PH.D.
We’ve all been victimized by painful presentations: Too long. Too salesy. Too boring. Forcing the audience to remain passive participants listening to a speaker who hopes to persuade, convince, and cajole to get to “yes.”
It feels like the speaker only sees us as bags of money sitting in uncomfortable chairs. The focus of the presentation is about what the presenter can get from the audience. This has to stop.
Exceptional public speaking is never about the speaker. Yet it’s easy to see yourself as the star of the presentation.
Most public speaking advice focuses on taking center stage: how to make eye contact, what do with your hands, and how to kill the dreaded “um.” This advice is important, but it’s secondary to creating an audience-centered presentation. When you make the audience the star of your presentation, your reach rises, your impact increases, and your bottom-line blossoms.
Here are five ways to make the audience the star of your presentation, so you create a memorable presentation with a message that matters:
1. DELVE DEEP INTO THE AUDIENCE’S PSYCHE
Unfortunately, the majority of speakers start preparing for their presentations by firing up the laptop, opening PowerPoint, and typing–the audience is an after thought.
Step away from the computer.
Before you start crafting one word of your presentation, you must get into the head of each audience member. Although it’s important to understand their demographics, psychographics, and what makes them toss and turn in the wee hours of the night, it’s equally important to understand what they believe about your message. Answer these three questions to dive into your audience’s heads:
1) What do they already know about your topic?
2) What misconceptions do they have about your message?
3) What areas of your message will they resist?
Addressing those three questions during your presentation let’s the audience know that you understood them and that their point of view mattered to you as you crafted your message.
2. GET CLEAR ON YOUR PRESENTATION PROMISE
Seth Godin said, “A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.” The presentation promise is deeper than the traditional WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) statement, but instead answers one simple question: “How will your audience change as a result of hearing you speak?”
How you can make their lives easier, help them grow, or do something better, faster, or more efficient than ever before? Give your best ideas away for free. No strings attached. This sounds counterintuitive, but creating immense value for the audience is the best way to turn audience members into co-collaborators, supporters, and even fans.
3. UNDERWHELM THEM WITH DATA
Presentations have evolved into a big data dump. Speakers cram as much information as possible into their presentation because the more information you give, the more of an expert you are, right?
Wrong. The more information you give, the more overwhelmed your audience feels, and the less likely you’ll live up to that presentation promise. As an expert, it’s easy to give too many details that, while interesting to you, don’t support your core message. Be ruthless in editing. If a piece of information, a story, or a statistic does not ladder back to your promise, it needs to go.
4. ACTIVATE ACTION
Have you ever sat through a presentation and thought, “Fascinating. But now what?” The content was great, the stories were compelling, and the argument sound, but what do you do with all of that new information?
As a speaker, it’s not enough to inform; you must also show the audience how to take action. Answer the question of “what do I do with this?” for them.
Every point that you make in your speech should have an action the audience can take that moves them closer to the presentation promise. It’s even more powerful if the audience can take at least one of those actions during your speech.
If you’re giving a presentation on social media, have people send a tweet. Speaking about goal setting, give the audience an opportunity to set a goal. Get them in the habit of taking action.
5. INVITE INTERACTION
Human beings are meaning-making machines. We co-create meaning through the relationships we have with others. Whether you’re speaking to 10, 100, or 1000 people, you’re creating a relationship with each one of those individuals. You don’t want to be the one who does all the talking, even if you’re the speaker.
As you create your presentation, think strategically about how to involve the audience. Tell a story that fires up their mirror neurons, so they feel like a part of your tale. Create activities that connect them with their fellow audience members. Ask them questions and pause to let them respond. The more the audience is involved in your presentation, the more memorable and valuable your message is.
As you prepare for your next presentation, remind yourself who you are serving. Place the audience at the epicenter of your speech. When you make the audience the star of your presentation, persuasion becomes easier, relationships deepen, and you become their go-to expert.
— Michelle Mazur, Ph.D. delivers audacious breakthroughs for speakers who want to stand out and be the best in-class in their field. She is the CEO of Communication Rebel and the author of Speak Up for Your Business. If you’re ready to rebel against the presentation status quo, visit Michelle at