The most important part of your speech is the audience. Which is why audience centered speaking is so important.
Most speeches or presentations at work are not audience centered. They are speaker centered. The speaker or presenter is thinking about themselves. How they look. How they feel. What they are worried about. How they can get through their speech as quickly as possible. What things they want to tell the audience.
As a result of this speaker-centeredness 99% of work speeches and presentations are terrible. Don’t believe me? Think back to the last presentation you attended that you looked forward to. I bet you can’t think of one, and if you can it was probably a paid event.
Bad presentations are bad communication. You only talk to Boring Brad from accounting because you have to – you both work in the same company after all. You only attend those boring presentations for the same reason – you have to.
So, when you are preparing your next speech or presentation how can you practice audience centered speaking to make it more successful? In this article I’m going to show exactly how to make your presentation audience-centered.
Start with a blank sheet of paper
Yes, I know you want to start with PowerPoint, but that’s the absolute wrong approach.
Sit down with a blank sheet of paper and brainstorm the key pieces of information you think you will need to talk about. This is not a time for editing yourself. Just list out as many things as you can.
The point of this exercise is to get a brain dump that we can shape into our speech later. Spend a good 10 to 20 minutes getting as many points written down as you can.
Note: If you don’t know enough about the topic to do this step then you need to ask yourself two questions: Am I the right person to be speaking about this topic? and Do I need to better understand this topic before speaking about it?
Define your purpose and audience
Now that you’ve got your brain dump, it’s time to add a little structure to your speech. Think about why you’re doing the talk and what the audience want and need.
You need a purpose, so think about why you’re doing the talk. If your purpose is just to impart information, you need to consider a better thought-out purpose or ask yourself if the presentation is really necessary (maybe an email would suffice).
For example, the purpose could be “Information about the rollout schedule of the new computer system.” But that’s really dry and not going to lend itself to an engaging speech. “The time-savings you’ll experience with the new computer system and when to expect the rollout” is a much better purpose.
In conjunction with the crafting of your purpose, consider the needs and wants of the audience. Is their main complaint about the current computer system speed? If so, the above example might be a good purpose. If their main complaint is usability, then the following purpose might be better, “The enhanced user interface of the new computer system and when you can get your hands on it.”
Make a plan to communicate naturally
Imagine you meet a friend for dinner. Throughout dinner your friend talks as though they’ve practiced every word they were going to say. Maybe they even check some cue cards before talking. It would be weird, right? But for some reason we think this is an acceptable way to communicate in a speech or presentation.
To make your speech audience centered think about how to deliver your talk naturally. It’s not about writing out a script and memorizing it. That will never sound natural.
The key to sounding natural is to understand your topic in-depth and plan your talk using talking point headings. Doing it this way will mean that when you deliver your live speech it won’t sound exactly the same as the last time you practiced, but it will sound natural. It will sound like real communication.
Build some slides (if necessary)
Your PowerPoint slides should always come last. If you need them, create them after you understand your purpose, your audience, and your plan.
Preparing your slides last means that you won’t be reliant on the slides to deliver your speech, and therefore less likely to communicate like a robot.
What do you think about audience centered speaking? Let me know in the comments below.