Does Your Audience Focus Suck?

Last month’s year-long ‘Do Your Presentations Suck? series overview garnered curious and enthusiastic reader reaction. That’s great. So, we start off this deep dive into Best Practices with a look at Audience Focus.

Your Audience Focus might suck if you don’t embrace the power of Audience Centricity – the art and science of crafting and delivering audience-centered messages. Your Audience Focus might suck a lot if you don’t even know what this concept means.

If you’ve ever suffered through a ‘Presentation from Hell’, it was probably delivered by someone with a presenter-centered focus. The unspoken message is usually – ‘I know this stuff and you don’t. So, I’m going to tell you everything I know about the topic in the way I want to tell you for as long as I want to talk.’ Not exactly audience-friendly, is it? These presenters are also guilty of taking the ‘Golden Rule’ to a ridiculous extreme by presenting to others the way they would like others to present to them.

The Audience-Centric alternative is easy to describe, but much harder to do. Here, the unspoken message is usually – It’s my role and my pleasure to share important information of value for you. But, I’ll only tell you what you need and want to know in the way you want to hear it only for as long as you need.’ This presenter realizes the intrinsic value of practicing the ‘Platinum Rule’, as first defined by Dr. Tony Alessandra. That means presenting to others the way they want to be presented to.

The challenge of embracing Audience-Centricity is the need to clearly define objectives and outcomes for the message in Audience-Centric terms. What do they need to know, understand, feel or do as a result of your message to accomplish those objectives? Then, they must craft the message with that specific end in mind.

Often, presenter ego can get in the way. It’s difficult for subject matter experts to realize and accept that the presentation isn’t all about them. It’s all about those outcomes and the audience’s needs relative to accomplishing them. Again, easy to say but hard to do.

So, how do you create an Audience Focus that doesn’t suck? Make sure everything they hear and see is aimed at them in a way that deals with the reasons they’re sitting in front of you. Talk as long as they need you to talk using their language, not yours. And do leave the presenter ego behind.