Several years ago I was invited to give a very large keynote to a room full of savvy sales professionals. It was a 45 minute talk. I had center stage. I completely messed up.
I didn’t dial into the wants and needs of my audience. In fact, I made a handful of blunders on stage by unknowingly citing quotes from competitors and highlighting material that they found to be laughable. It was completely embarrassing and all of it could have been avoided if I just spent a few minutes to really study my audience and who was going to be in the room.
Fast forward, I haven’t made that mistake again and the reason why is because I always ask myself these five questions before giving any presentation.
Question 1: Who am I am talking to?
Every audience will be diverse. You are going to have young and old folks, women and men, and even differences in political and spiritual beliefs. However, the one component that unites them all is personality type – meaning introverts or extroverts. Here’s how I was taught the difference between the two. Introverts get drained by people. Extroverts get energized by people. It’s that simple. For example, I’m an introvert so my battery tends to run low when interacting with people all day. Eventually, I’ll need to step away to recharge myself by sitting in my office, hotel room, or even car until I’m ready to go back out and socialize again. As you can imagine, extroverts are the exact opposite where they get drained by themselves but charged when around others. So, the lesson for all of us is to respect this reality. You need to create exercises and workshops to involve your extroverts but also have your fair share of lecture components to appeal to your introverts who would prefer to just listen and absorb.
Question 2: What keeps them up a night?
Everyone has fears and worries. If it’s not your bills, then maybe it’s your presentation on Thursday morning, or finding time to attend your daughter’s recital. We all are crazy busy and we all have struggled to get solid sleep because of a fear or insecurity. The question for you is what is that item for your audience? What is keeping them up at night and making them feel stressed and insecure. If you can confidently answer that question then you have a message that will truly add benefit to their lives, and that is amazing.
Question 3: How can I mold my content to best reach them?
Attention spans are shorter than they have ever been in years past. We live in a drive-thru culture where convenience and impatience are the standard. Given that reality, the obstacle you will always face is how can you deliver a message that will 1) resonate but, more importantly 2) be remembered. My suggestion for you would be to focus on brevity and levity. Keep your messages brief and avoid going granular by steering away from all the details. Your audience can only retain so much information so respect that dynamic.
Question 4: How can I get them to participate with me?
Did you know that stories increase retention by 26%. According to a recent study, when you share only facts and stats with your audience only two parts of the human brain ignite but when you tell stories, seven parts of the human brain ignite. That’s impressive. The best way to get any audience to participate with you is through the use of stories. There really is no better medium.
Question 5: What do I need them to do next?
What you need you audience to do next is based on the quality of your call-to-action. For starters, you must always have one but there is a trick to making it really stick. There was a study done at Harvard University where a call-to-action was included in a series of presentations. However, this call-to-action lacked the word “because.” The end result: 64% of the participants did what was requested. They redid the study but this time added the word “because” and the participation percentage jumped up to 90%.
Don’t be like me and try to win at your next presentation by ignoring these five questions. Study them. Master them. Be comfortable with having a response for each one. If you can do that, you’ll win the hearts and minds of any audience.