Presenter’s Manifesto: It’s About The Audience

The first tip about making effective presentations has nothing to do with content, technology, or presentation skills. It has to do with purpose. Famous author Steve Covey has written “Begin with the end in mind.” So what end should we have in mind as presenters?

via Flickr, courtesy sebastian

Our goal when presenting is to communicate a particular message to a specific audience. We do so to enable or persuade.

  • Enabling simply means teaching. When enabling, we are trying to teach a topic well enough so that the audience can use the information to take positive action. That might in the form of learning a new skill, or making an existing skill better. It might building knowledge in a new area that helps the audience make better decisions in their personal or professional lives. Enabling is, in effect, intended to make the audience better in some way.
  • When persuading, we are trying to get our audience to believe something that we believe, or perhaps we’re trying to provide a sound reason for them to take a particular action. It might be to buy a particular product, or change a habit or behavior. If we are successful, the audience benefits in some way.

Whether enabling or persuading, the goal is always to help the audience. So when preparing for a presentation, it’s of the utmost importance to remember that it’s not all about the content, the technology, or the presenter. Clearly the content has to be good, the technology has to work well, and the presenter must be prepared, but the ultimate measure of success is how well the message is imparted to the audience. Did they benefit, or did they not?

It follows then that we as presenters must be intentional in not drawing unnecessary attention to ourselves (unless our life happens to be the topic), and do everything possible to make the technology invisible. We’ve all been exposed to the opposite. Don’t be that person.

Our focus must always be our audience – it informs every decision we make. Keeping this in mind during both preparation and delivery will lead to successful results and a happy, grateful audience.

This post is part of the series “The Presenter’s Manifesto”.  You can find the beginning of the series here: Presenter’s Manifesto – Prologue