Whether you are talking to a bunch of students in a college or sharing an update with your colleagues or presenting to the press, there are three questions in the minds of the audience. They will not be articulating it, but they are definitely seeking the answer.
Question 1: Do I understand you?
Understanding trumps everything when it comes to a speech or a presentation. If I do not understand you, rest as they say is academic. It does not matter who you are and what you tell me, if I do not understand you. I will switch off mentally.
Do not expect your audience to interrupt you and seek clarification all the time. It’s your prerogative to be understood. Sometimes the audience does not want to reveal they do not understand. It is your job as a presenter to gauge audience understanding from the body language. Teachers are good at this and it takes time to master this technique.
There are two things you can do to enhance audience understanding. First, share your presentation with a friend (someone who closely resembles your audience) and check with her if ‘she gets the point’. Does she understand? Do this much before the day of your presentation. Second, while presenting ask your audience if they want to know more or have they grasped the concept fully. You might ask questions and check their level of understanding.
Question 2: Do I believe you?
After understanding, comes credibility. This is the second hurdle you need to cross as a presenter. I have understood your argument but I do not believe it. Maybe you are twisting the facts. Maybe you are only revealing one side of the coin. Why should I trust you?
Chip and Dan Heath have tackled this problem in their masterpiece Made to Stick. They talk about external and internal credibility. External credibility comes from research reports and third parties (stuff that is external to your content). If you are a startup pitching to a VC, this credibility comes from quoting research reports of Gartner and quoting experts in your field of business. Internal credibility comes from what you present. Details add credibility and so do numbers and demos. If you talk abstract, you lose credibility. The more specific you are, the more credible you are. Show me, don’t tell me is the mantra. While talking about the problem your startup is solving, narrating a story where a customer is facing the problem not only enhances understanding but also makes it realistic and credible. I can now ‘see’ what you are telling me.
Question 3: Do I like you?
If I like you, I do business with you. If I like you, I become friends with you. The final hurdle is the likability of the presenter. Whenever you make a presentation, ensure that you portray who you really are. Do not hide your true self. You can never appeal to everyone in your audience and by that logic, can never become likable to all.
Do not put on a mask. Do not fake an accent. Doing this makes you slightly vulnerable and that’s what makes you human. Avoid standing behind the lectern (podium) and mingle with the audience. Shake hands, give high fives or whatever else is your style. As you present more and more, you will realize and develop your unique style. Stay true to yourself and you will become more likable to the audience too.
Image by Unsplash via Pixabay
About Vivek Singh
Vivek Singh is the founder of JazzFactory.In, a presentation design and consulting firm. Follow Vivek on Twitter: @viveksinghJF