With your next presentation you might be trying to get listeners to invest in your start-up. Or maybe try a new product. You might want them to consider a new philosophy or maybe just a new brownie recipe. No matter the specific goals, though, there’s really only one general reason to give a presentation and it’s a simple one. You have to want to help people. Presentations for any other reason are where we run into trouble.
In my opinion, failure to think of our audience’s needs and desires is the main reason we give so many boring presentations. When was the last time you enjoyed a movie in which you identified with none of the characters? There’s nothing there for you to grab hold of. You can’t relate. The same thing is true of presentations. Too often presenters focus only on what’s important to them. They talk about who they are. What they do. What their goals are. What they want their audience to do. It’s as if they expect their audiences to act out of a sense of awe for the presenter. You can probably imagine how well this works.
Giving a presentation is ultimately an act of humility and empathy. The presenter sets aside her goals and considers things from their audience’s perspective. In her book, Resonate, Nancy Duarte says it this way: “You need to defer to your audience because if they don’t engage and believe in your message, you are the one who loses. Without their help, your idea will fail.”
Helping people with your presentation doesn’t mean that you can’t ask them to do things that will benefit you or your cause in some way, too. But you must show them how doing what you ask will have some positive benefit for them.
Ask yourself why you’re giving your next presentation. There are tons of potential reasons, but really only one of them leads to success. Go to great lengths to make sure that you’re acting in your audience’s best interest and your likelihood of success will increase dramatically.