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Do You Keep Your Audience Interested?

Do You Keep Your Audience Interested?

As soon as we knew some pieces were missing, she lost interest. I was with Becca, my 7-year old granddaughter and we’d been doing a jigsaw puzzle. Most of it was completed when we realised there were some pieces missing. Immediately, she lost interest and wandered off. 
 
Maybe she was right. For her there was no point in continuing. It had lost its interest for her. Can’t blame a 7-year old for that. She might have said “if you give me incomplete jigsaws what can you expect?” And I admit that I liked her honesty in walking away. 
 
But now I’m thinking, I’m in the presentation business, what about my presentations? At what point does my audience lose interest and mentally, if not physically, wander off? And that’s assuming I had their interest in the first place. 
 
Dale Carnegie, in his timeless classic How to Win Friends and Influence People, believed that great speakers speak ‘in terms of the other person’s interests’. 
 
So today my question to you (and to myself, of course) is how often do we really consider who our audience is, what their interests are, where they are now in their thinking, and how we can move them to somewhere of value to them? 
 
For example, why should they listen to us in the first place? Do we ask ourselves, on behalf of our audience, WIIFM or What’s In It For Me?
 
The trainer in me wants to provide some suggestions as well as ask questions. Why not consider where you want to finish (begin with the end in mind)? What do you want your audience to be thinking or feeling at the end of your presentation? In which case, what do you need to do or say to get them there?
 
And at some point you’ll want to consider your opening. Are you opening with a compelling proposition or question? And then how can you keep their interest? To the point where if you walked out half-way through your presentation would they feel compelled to make you return and finish it, or would they be relieved that you’d stopped?
 
And would you know if and when they’re losing interest? We’re all capable, as audience members, of feigning interest, smiling and looking interested. What about a good question from you in the midst of the words and the PowerPoint? “Is this of interest to you?”
 
Finally, perhaps get some feedback from your colleagues. People who know you and whom you trust to give you honest feedback. And thinking of colleagues, if you’ve got a colleague who could do with some help, suggest they have a look at our Videoscribe of How to Create a Presentation, or get them to get in touch by email or phone +44 (0) 7889 167486, I may be able to help. 
 
And as for young Becca, the good news is that I’ve now found the missing jigsaw pieces so we can complete it next time she’s round here. That’s if she’s still interested, of course!

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