You’ve spoken eloquently and given your audience real value. Your audience are inspired, motivated, and have some great new skills they are eager to put into practice.
You’ve delivered your Diamond and made an amazing difference in the lives of hundreds of people.
The energy in the room is palpable. They know, as you know, that the gig is nearly over. Soon they will say goodbye to their friends and go back home or to work….
And you want to leave them with one last thing… Something fantastic, something thought-provoking, something truly memorable. A sentence that will stay on the tip of their tongue waiting for someone to ask “how was it” when it will trip easily off their tongue as a phrase that captures the very best of what you have said.
Or at least that’s how it should be…….
The Warner Bros Close
Yet how many times have you heard phrases like “I think my time is up, any questions?” or “That just about covers it… Yup nothing more from me”. Many speakers and presenters simply tail off, as if they have run out of steam. They hand over control to the audience (for a Q&A session), or they simply look at their watch and say “that’s all folks” or words to that effect.
The final words your audience hear should be powerful, memorable, exciting, influential. They are also the most likely to be remembered – providing you get them right.
Even if you have to hand out a form, you can always set it up that your well-prepared final lines are the last things they hear. You simply say something like “I would love to know what you thought, so if you would please fill in these forms. Once everyone has finished, I just want to say a few more words and then you are free to leave.” This means your audience knows to stay put and then once you’ve delivered your powerful close, you don’t have to tell them “You can go now“.
It is vital if your audience is to act on what they have heard that they leave feeling motivated (to act) and also persuaded (to act). Start with one of the following options….
- A short story – inspire them with a new vision for what their life could be like if only they took the actions you have taught them, remind them of what Martin Luther King called “The Promised Land”.
- A surprising fact or statistic – something that highlights the issues you have been discussing and gives them a concrete reason to act on what you have discussed
- A quote – a powerful summation of your content or what the future might hold if they fail to act.
- A stirring call to action – “Are you going to ….” Preferably a question that gets a YES response, so they are nodding as they leave…
When I presented at a celebration event for a life-changing project that involved saving lives from cancer, I closed a five minute presentation with a short story about joining the National Trust (which got the audience’s attention because it seemed so irrelevant). An earnest man had shaken my hand and told me that joining was the best thing I’d ever done in my life. I rolled my eyes, told them what I said to my husband and finished with the final rousing line: “THIS is the best thing I’ve ever done in my life”.
Your closing line should be well crafted, and well rehearsed so that whatever else happens during the presentation, you leave them with a powerful message that they can think about as they travel home and that will resonate around their heads for days to come.
Presenting is not about rave reviews on your evaluation form, nor a thunderous round of applause at the end. And if you’re dreaming of being lifted on the shoulders of the audience as they parade you around the hotel lobby, then perhaps you’re in the wrong game.
There’s only one real measure of your presentation. And it’s this: the impact it had on the lives of those who listened to you!
How many times have you left a talk bursting with enthusiasm and ideas, yet when you got back to your desk nothing changed? Lots of content is no guarantee of success. So how do you make sure your presentation impacts the lives of those listening?
Before you power up your computer and start typing bullets into slides, think for a moment. What is it that you want the people listening to be able to do differently after they have heard you speak? How your talk will change their behaviour?
To answer that question, you have to start by knowing your audience. And one of the most important things you need to know is this: what do they already know about your topic? Where are they starting from?
Think of your presentation as a journey.
If I asked you directions to London, then the first thing I would have to know is where are you are now (because directions from York or even New York are very different!)
Where are they now, and where will you take them to? What skill can you give them that they don’t already have?
Thinking of an example…. If your topic is bicycles, you might decide that for this particular audience they really need to be able to:
- Describe all the components in the anatomy of a bicycle
- Complete routine maintenance on a bicycle including changing the gear set
- Ride a bicycle safely around a busy town centre in rush hour
By getting clear exactly what you want them to do at the very start of your preparation, you’ll easily be able to chose what to say and what not to say. Do they need to know classic mechanics and equations to ride a bicycle? Do they need to know how to oil the chain to maintain one? And if you want them to ride a bike, they’re going to need to get on a real bicycle (as the saying goes “no-one ever learned how to ride a bicycle by reading the manual”).
Once you’re clear on the purpose of your presentation, the next step is designing content to ensure that every single person present can do it by the end of your presentation. More of that in later blog posts….
So how do you ensure that you meet the needs of your audience? How do you measure whether or not you achieved it or not? Leave your thoughts and comments below.
When you stand at the front of an audience, in the moments just before you speak, it’s easy to believe that all those faces are staring at you because you’re the focus of the next few minutes. But your presentation is not about you.
It’s not about your expertise, your years of experience, how much you earn, the celebrities you have worked with or any of that “me, me, me” blah blah blah.
It is only ever about your audience….
These people have invested their time and energy to listen to you. So they want and deserve to learn something of value to them. So if the talk is all about your audience, how can you be certain that what you’re about to say will hit the spot?
Your audience is key, they’re the most important people in the room.
A talk about using social media to market their skills for college graduates will be very different in style and content to one given on the same topic to chief execs. The first step in creating a great presentation is to get to know your audience.
People want solutions – things to make their life better. Great presenters give them solutions to the problems they have right now. So you need to know what their problems are. What is causing them to worry, lose sleep, bit their nails? Then design your presentation to solve their problem.
How can you find out about your audience?
- If you’re speaking at a professional conference or similar, ask the person who booked you.
- If you’re presenting at work, ask your colleagues, peers or managers – find out what they want to know.
- If you’re talking at a networking event, go to a session and chat to the attendees about your proposed topic and their knowledge/ problems.
- If you’re delivering an on-line presentation (such as a teleseminar or webinar) ask questions of your audience as they register using a simple survey system.
For a live multi-speaker event talk to the host and also other presenters to ensure that you compliment what other people are going to say. On the day, arrive early and watch other presentations and talk to the audience. Watching other presentations helps you put your presentation into context. Talking to the audience helps you find out if anything has happened recently that needs to be reflected in your session. Ask people what they are most looking forward to hearing during the day/ session, so you know how to tailor your content.
Imagine the impact when you casually drop in the phrase “I was speaking to Gemma over coffee this morning, and she told me she was finding it hard to decide how to use social media effectively to market her skills and save her wasting hours getting nowhere fast…Gemma this technique’s especially for you…” Not only will Gemma perk up, so will anyone who knows Gemma, or anyone who also wants to solve their problems with the time they spend on social media.
You want your audience to nod their heads when you talk, as they mentally say “how did she know?” or “that’s my life she’s talking about”. And for that to happen, you have to know your audience.
Focus your presentation on making a real and practical difference to the lives of those listening. Help them to solve a problem, especially if it’s keeping them awake at night, and they will think it was the best 30 minutes they have ever spent! And hey presto – you get a reputation as an awesome presenter.
Know their problems, solve their problems.
It really is as simple as that.
What are the problems you solve? And how did you discover that your audience has them? Share your thoughts below….