Patnaude Coaching

It’s About The Audience, Silly

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Far too often, I hear presentations that are a complete waste of everyone’s time. That’s true for the people listening as well as for the presenter. They happen during meetings, at events, and any other place where people are giving presentations. The presenter is far too concerned about the wrong things. Just like that saying from a few years back about the economy… It’s about the audience, silly.

Why does this happen?

When most people begin preparing a presentation of any kind, the tendency is to focus on what you want to share. Certainly, thinking about what information you have to share is important. But all too often, that’s where the analysis ends. The presenter builds the presentation around everything they need to tell their audience. 

Part of why presenters say they form this tunnel vision is nerves or anxiety. The assumption is that thinking too much about the audience, what they might ask, how they might respond, will cause anxiety. So, the tendency is to slap together information, cram it onto slides that are too full, and talk fast.

Unfortunately, that doesn’t usually include any reflection on what that audience might need to hear.

There’s an important distinction between the two approaches. The first is focused on the presenter. The second is focused on the audience. Having coached hundreds of people on this distinction, let me be the one to tell you that the second approach is always more effective. Always.

It’s not difficult, just different.

Before you decide how to build your presentation, ask yourself a few questions about who will be on the receiving end of what you’re sharing.

  1. Given your topic, what do you need your audience to do, say, think, or feel by the end of the presentation? In other words, what’s your endgame?
  2. Do they know that? Why do they think they’re coming to this presentation?
  3. What do you know about them? Are there hecklers in the group? Nay-sayers? Cheerleaders? How do they like to receive information?
  4. Given your answers to those questions, what do you think is the best starting point for the presentation?
  5. Finally, how can you build in opportunities for audience engagement? And what would be the most effective way to do that, given your audience?

Presentations of all kinds could be vastly improved for everyone if the presenter takes the time to reflect on their audience first. The presenter would be more relaxed, confident that they have thought through the best approach, given who will be in the room. And the audience will feel more engaged and attentive, receiving information tailored to what they need out of the experience. It takes 10 minutes, tops. Give it a try. Let me know how it goes.

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