What Audiences Expect from a Speaker
“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”— Benjamin Franklin
As I was thinking about writing this week’s article, I asked myself, “What do audiences expect from a speaker?”
People pay a price to come and hear you speak. They pay a price even if your presentation price is free. They pay with their time which they can never get back.
What do they expect from you as a speaker? Below are my thoughts on this.
We have all attended presentations where the speaker has not been prepared.
Either they are unfamiliar with their subject, have too many slides for the allotted presentation time, or they are unfamiliar with what their audience knows about the subject. Unfortunately, these are but three of many ways speakers are sometimes unprepared.
Here are a few things you can do to ensure you are prepared for your presentation:
When preparing your presentation, always start with getting to know your audience. You need to answer the following questions:
What does your audience know about your subject? You are “flying blind” with your presentation without knowing the answer to this question. We all know what happens to airplane pilots who “fly blind.” They crash and burn, which is what your presentation will do if you don’t know the answer to this question.
What is your audience’s majority opinion on your subject? Will they wholeheartedly agree with your message? Are they totally against your message? Do they even care about your message? In this last case, it is your job to convince them to care and, hopefully, agree with your message when your presentation is done.
Does your presentation have enough structure so the audience will not get lost? An easy way to do this is to tell them your three main points in your opening after your attention step. Remember, three main points are recommended. If your presentation has two main points, your audience will feel cheated. If you have four or more points in your presentation, it will be hard to remember your main points. Make your main points “crystal clear” by stating the main point before your supporting points, restating main point one at the end of that point, and restating the points you have covered with each succeeding point.
Study your public speaking books. They have a goldmine of great information to help you prepare your presentation.
So, you now know your audience wants you to be prepared to deliver your presentation.
hey also want you to be honest when delivering your presentation.
Being honest in your presentation takes many forms. Some of these are:
Citing sources when you state a fact. I know you are honest, but if you don’t cite a source, your “fact” will be less believable
You are being truthful when you do not know the answer to an audience question. Your audience can “spot you a mile away” if you don’t know the answer to their question. There is no reason to try not to be truthful in responding to a question if you don’t know. Your audience does not expect you to know the answer to all their questions. Just be honest. Tell the questioner if they give you their e-mail address during the break, you will send them a response within 24 hours.
Acknowledge audience expertise in your subject. You may be the one giving the presentation, but there is never any speaker who has known everything about their subject. If an audience member has a particularly keen insight into something about your subject, politely ask them if they would explore their viewpoint at the break or through e-mail. Validating what your audience knows about your subject is a great way to increase audience engagement.
So, your audience expects you to be prepared and be honest in your presentation. If you do this, you will have a good presentation, but it will not be memorable.
To be memorable, your presentation must be interesting.
Earl Nightingale once said, “The only requirement for a speaker is to be interesting.” I think there are other requirements of a speaker, but you get the “picture.”
If you are the keynote speaker at a building materials convention and you are talking about the latest design of wood nails, you had better make that new wood nail design seem like they will take the next astronauts to Mars.
Of course, nails are nails, but you can talk about how the nails can be driven in one slam of the hammer, cutting labor hours or about how the nails are stainless steel and will never have to be replaced, reducing repair time or about how the nails are so strong less of them can be used per foot again cutting material cost.
My brother-in-law told my wife and me a story many years ago. My brother-in-law is a Ph.D. chemist. He is retired from one of the prominent supplier companies of car paint. One day he and a few other chemists when out to lunch. They started arguing about which of their formulas was the best paint. They practically had to be broken up. However, one of the chemists finally said, “Hey guys, it’s just car paint.” This relieved the pressure of the “conversation,” and they laughed over it.
It was just car paint they were talking about, but have you ever realized how vital car paint is? Buy a car without it, and then let me know.
My point is even if you are talking about something supposedly mundane like car paint, you have to make it interesting, so your audience is on the edge of their seat.
So, your audience expects you to be prepared for your presentation, be honest when you deliver it, and make it memorable by delivering it interestingly.
You will not meet your audience’s expectations if you don’t do these three things.
Call to Action
Never show up for your presentation unprepared. Have a structure to your presentation and make your three main points and overall message clear.
Always be honest with your audience. Honesty is the best policy.
Think about the most memorable presentations you have attended. They were the most interesting. Make all your presentations interesting.>/p?
“To be interesting, be interested.”— Dale Carnegie
Frank DiBartolomeo is a retired U.S. Air Force Lieutenant Colonel and award-winning speaker, presentation and interview skills coach, and Professional Member of the National Speakers Association. He was awarded Toastmasters International’s highest individual award, Distinguished Toastmaster because of his outstanding work in public speaking and leadership.
Frank formed DiBartolomeo Consulting International (DCI), LLC (www.speakleadandsucceed.com) in 2007. The mission of DCI is to help technical professionals to inspire, motivate, and influence their colleagues and other technical professionals through improving their presentation skills, communication, and personal presence. Reach Frank at email@example.com and (703) 509-4424.
Don’t miss Frank DiBartolomeo’s latest book!
“Speak Well and Prosper: Tips, Tools, and Techniques for Better Presentations”