Have you ever sat through a work presentation you felt the speaker was unintentionally but still mildly (or not) insulting you as part of the audience? Telling the audience what they already know? Rambling on about something with no apparent relevance to the audience? Getting to a level of detail that is of no interest? Not getting to the point in a timely fashion?
I can promise you the speaker only had good intentions. Just not enough awareness.
There are so many small and ways speakers and presenters unintentionally condescend and disrespect their audiences, and then bore them on top of that. Fear not, no one will ever say anything, especially if the presenter has some sort of fancy title. Everyone likes getting a paycheck and occasional promotions and raises. Much like petting a scorpion, criticizing a leadership presentation carries risk and potential for pain. Consider this a Communication Alert to what’s really at play right now in the minds of the folks in your audience.
This entire topic makes me inappropriate-for-the-workplace bitter because all PBP’s (particularly bad presentations) are so unnecessary and unproductive. The fixes are easy, for those who are willing.
Imagine you’ve wandered away from the picnic table, into the forest and it’s now dark. You might feel a bit nervous until I bring you a flashlight. Your audience usually feels in the dark as well, until you, the speaker, shine a light on THEM.
What kind of communication imprint are you leaving?
You may be unintentionally disrespecting your audience when they don’t know why you’re droning on about a topic; they don’t get the lingo, you give too much detail or you try to teach them what they already know and take up too much of their time. Any one of these turns off audience engagement. More than two and you’ve lost them completely.
You see, great
conversations presentations are about your audience, not about you. Great presentations engage and inspire people and build relationships. As a result, good communication means more profitability.
Every time you talk to your team, or leadership, or clients… each is an incredible opportunity for you to build something: a relationship, profitability, engagement, performance, your pick.
How does a company make a change in their race car that is so innovative the car wins a race even though it doesn’t go faster than the others? Audi did that in 2006-2009, and it started with a conversation. (They switched to a diesel engine to save time on refueling.)
How does a successful company completely revamp its products to make them even more successful than what’s out there? At Nike and other innovative companies, it starts with a conversation. And a presentation is just a particular type of conversation.
What does an audience-centric presentation look like?
1. It has a clear purpose explicitly stated. “I’m here today to share X with you because Y.”
It’s that simple but rarely do leaders remember to give this vital piece of information. Until the listener knows why you’re telling them something, there is no engagement in what you’re saying. People relate to why you’re doing something, not what or how.
If you don’t have something of interest to say, do everyone a favor and cancel the meeting.
2. The message is tailored to the priorities and language of the audience.
That means watching your acronyms and short cuts. That means putting yourself in the shoes of someone in your audience and taking it from there.
3. You give only enough detail to suit the purpose of your talk, and offer more for those who want it.
Make other resources available through email [yawn], handouts, links, contact information. Actually, if needed, people will ask you for more details.
Ask yourself one simple question: How can I serve this audience with my message?
This is what a positive communication imprint looks like:
- Your audience gets why your message is important to you and to them.
- They know what they need to do as a result of your message.
- They feel their work is valued by you personally.
- Their perception of what is possible got bigger once you spoke.
- Your respect their time the way you would in a meeting with the pope (or Beyoncé).
It may not be realistic to keep everyone on the edge of their seats while you explain the new safety regulation. But you can engage any audience on any topic for the time needed to leave a positive communication imprint. And that’s what you can use to solve problems, cut costs, innovate and raise profits.