Are You Confusing Your Audience?
“Speakers who talk about what life has taught them never fail to keep the attention of their listeners. – Dale Carnegie
The main purpose of any presentation is to impart knowledge to your audience and make that knowledge applicable to their personal and/or professional lives. In other words, they can take action on the information in your presentation to improve their individual situations.
Obstacles to your audience understanding the information in your presentation are detrimental to your message.
Although there are many obstacles to transferring the information in your presentation to your audience, I highlight a few of the most egregious obstacles and how to eliminate them from your presentation. These obstacles are jargon, lack of transitions between the different parts of your presentation, and lack of structure in your presentation.
Use of jargon has plagued speakers since men and women could communicate with language.
Every profession has its own language; words that have a very particular meaning to that profession. Use of these words in your interactions with others in your profession are not only acceptable; they are expected. There is nothing wrong with this when communicating with a person of your profession.
However, the chance of everyone in your audience being in your same profession is very small. Therefore, you need to be judicious in the words you speak and put on slides in your presentations.
Since I am an electrical engineer, a few examples of jargon in my profession are noise factor, aliasing, and link budget. These do not mean the noise from the train outside your window, someone impersonating someone they are not, and the cost of clicking on a link in a web page.
There is a four-step process to solving the jargon obstacle. (1) Realize your presentation has jargon, (2) Have someone not in your profession review your presentation and point out words unfamiliar to him or her (jargon), (3) Change the jargon words to familiar, everyday words, and then, finally, (4) Show the presentation to the person who reviewed it the first time to ensure it is completely understandable.
Jargon is certainly going to confuse your audience. Another obstacle to transferring information to your audience and making it their own is not tying the parts of your presentation together with transitions.
Lack of Transitions
Everyone reading these words has heard transitions in presentations before. Below are a few examples with transitioning words being italicized and bolded:
“Regulating temperature in a manned spacecraft in flight is certainly a challenge in the unforgiving environment of outer space. Another challenge equally important is providing breathable air for the astronauts in the spacecraft”
“Everyone knows you bake a cake from a recipe. An important part of the recipe are the ingredients. An equally important part of the recipe is the order in which the ingredients are added.”
“America has been the breadbasket of the world for a long time. It takes hard work to produce food on a farm. One farming challenge is to plow the fields of immense areas at the right time of year. An additional challenge is to plant seeds of what best grows in the particular soil of the farm.”
In the above examples, I have bridged two main points by using transition words to relate the second main point back to the first main point.
As you can see, if I can use a slightly overused term, inserting transitions is not rocket science. If you practice, you will see how easy it is to insert them. Use them in your presentations. Your audiences will be very thankful.
We now know that using jargon and not using transitions between the parts of your presentation are certainly going to confuse your audience.
The last thing causing confusion for your audience is the lack of structure in your presentation.
Lack of Structure
When you take a journey from point A to point B, you either consciously or unconsciously review the intermediate points of the journey. These intermediate points divide the journey into “digestible” parts and, as you travel, give you a sense of accomplishment – a need of every human being.
A presentation is a journey also. Point A is the current knowledge level of your audience. Point B is the knowledge level you want the audience to have at the end of your presentation. The parts of your presentation should flow from one part to the other. One way to ensure this is having a structure in your presentation and tell the audience upfront what that is.
Why do some speakers lack structure in their presentations. I believe it is lack of planning. The following parts should be in every presentation in this order whether it is a speech to the local garden club or a presidential inaugural address: attention step (quote, startling statistic, story, etc.), introduction stating what you will cover in the presentation, a transition to the body of your presentation, three main points bridged by transitions, summary bridged by a transition from the last main point, and a closing (quote, startling statistic, story, etc.).
Your presentation structure is the “map” for your audience stating what the intermediate stops will be along their journey.
Obstacles like jargon, lack of transitions between the parts of your presentation, and a lack of structure in your presentation will greatly confuse your audience.
Strike these obstacles to audience understanding from your presentation and enjoy the accolades from your audience!
Call to Action
Strike the jargon from what you say and what you put on your slides in your presentations to increase your audience’s understanding
Put transitions between your introduction and your first main point, between your main points, and between your last main point and your closing
Make your presentation journey the easiest for your audience by using the following presentation structure: attention step (quote, startling statistic, story, etc.), introduction stating what you will cover in the presentation, a transition to the body of your presentation, three main points bridged by transitions, summary bridged by a transition from the last main point, and a closing (quote, startling statistic, story, etc.)
“Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.” – Anonymous
DiBartolomeo Consulting International’s (DCI) mission is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence.
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