What is the most important aspect of your Presentation?
I ask this question at the beginning of every
workshop I give on Presenting Powerfully. The answers are always varied.
No one group ever agrees on what is the most important thing. However, I
believe that the most important thing in every presentation is the
audience, not you or your ideas. Why? Because a presenter is there to
serve the audience, to help them solve a problem. When writing a text,
it could be argued that you can focus on your own ideas. Readers can
move around a text, go to the part that interests them, that answers a
question they have. However, the audience has to follow your
presentation from beginning to end, they have no remote control to skip
ahead or rewind. And people are generally only interested in things that
can be of use to them. How many times has someone told you about a new
app or software that they are using and which they find extremely
useful? They talk to you at length about it, even show it to you and
give you a demo. And maybe you are interested in it at the time. And you
think, I should try that app out. It could be useful. But you never do.
You forget all about it. Why? Because your friend has explained how the
app has solved a problem for them. They haven’t (perhaps) thought about
what problems or needs you have and how that app could be of benefit to
If you want to make an impactful presentation, you
need to think how you can help solve a problem, an important pressing
problem, that the audience has. So, you are not the Karate Kid, you are
not the hero of the presentation, even though it feels like that with
everyone looking and listening to you as you stand on stage. If you are
not the Karate Kid, then who are you? You are Mr Miyagi. Granted, not so
young, good looking or exciting, but a key figure nonetheless. You are
the mentor to the hero. You help the hero overcome a problem they have.
Your audience is the hero of your presentation, not
you. You are the mentor and your role is to help them, guide them, offer
them a convincing solution to a specific problem they have. If you
start your presentation talking about them and their needs they will
give you the utmost attention. So, don’t start your presentation by
immediately launching into how much experience you have and your
authority to speak on this subject (which is how 99% of presentations
begin). Instead, begin first by grabbing their attention, then outline
the Big Question (their problem) that you are going to speak about and
only THEN establish your authority to talk about this question/problem.
After you’ve established your authority, tell them what your argument is
i.e. the answer you are going to propose to that question.
If you see the audience as the most important thing
in your presentation you will also be less nervous and more
enthusiastic. Your focus will be on them, on helping them. It is much
easier to get enthusiastic about solving someone else’s problem than it
is to speak about your own ideas, which can be egotistical. Also, it is
unfeasible to use a presentation to speak about your ideas on a topic.
Why? Because as a (presumed) expert on the topic, you should have many,
many things to say about it, far too many to fit them all into a 15
minute presentation. How do you choose what to say? Should you choose
the things you deem most important? The things that are easiest to
explain in 15 minutes? The things that are the most visual to stick in a
PowerPoint? No, tell them the things they need to know in order to
solve their specific problem.
If we all approached our presentations, meetings, classes this way we’d save a lot of time and leave our heroes champions of the Karate competition every time.