It is so easy for all of us to believe that a presentation is only about what we present. While it is important to have something to say, and there is usually a reason why we are being asked to speak in front of a group, we can get lost in the importance of the presentation.
When was the last time that you were going to a presentation hoping that the person talking would choose to lecture you? Even those of us who are nerdy and enjoy listening to smart people talk about “innovations in climate research” or “Revolutionary fuel technologies” can feel shut out and bored by a lecturer who only talks down to us.
On the other hand, how amazing is it when a speaker engages the audience in a conversation? I don’t mean the awkward, semi-rhetorical questions that seem to imply a shared understanding that may or may not be there, rather the open and honest presenters who seem to be inviting us into a dialogue. It is easy to see this with great public speakers (See this Benjamin Zander video) who are able to share their passion and intelligence in a free and empowering way. While we would all like to have Benjamin Zander’s energy and ability to excite an audience, it is also powerful just to talk to our audience like they matter to us, as though their experience really counts.
So, here is an easy tip: Rather than think of the speech or presentation as a transaction, one in which you are being asked to transfer knowledge to a larger audience, see it as aninvitation to a larger conversation.
- What are you inviting them to see?
- What was this topic like for you when you were in their position (first time understanding it)?
- What is it about the topic that excites you the most?
The last question is perhaps the most important because we rarely take people up on invitations when the person doing the inviting doesn’t sound excited. Find that excitement, make the connection and then have the conversation.