You may have seen articles and books that feature such titles as The Seven Principles of Public Speaking, The 12 Innumerable Laws of Public Speaking, andFive Fundamental Truths of Delivering Presentations. All such items contain valuable information. But in this article, I want to boil the advice down to one idea – the ultimate public speaking principle, if you will.
It’s all about the audience! Yup… that’s it. It’s all about the audience – whether it’s one person across a desk, 11 people in a meeting room, or 217 people at a conference.
You might be thinking now, “Of course, it is. That’s obvious.” But is it really? Do most people focus on their audience or themselves? It’s my experience that the vast majority of us concentrate on ourselves.
Think about it. What do most of us think or say when we’re going to deliver a presentation? “I hope I do a good job.” “I’m nervous about doing this.” “I really hope I don’t forget what I want to say.” “I hope they like what I have to say.” “My heart pounds and my hands sweat when I speak in front of others.” Notice anything? The commonality is that each statement is centered on the speaker.
How changing focus benefits you as a speaker
When you focus on yourself as a speaker, you pile on a great deal of unnecessary pressure. It’s bad enough that each of us is hardwired to be nervous when speaking in front of others. And then you add that extra stress. Not good.
When you focus on your audience – more accurately, when you focus on how you can serve your audience – much of the pressure is lifted, and delivering a presentation becomes an exciting opportunity, as opposed to drudgery.
I’m sure you either chuckled or outright challenged the idea that delivering a presentation can be an exciting opportunity. But look at it this way. You’re giving the presentation for a reason. You have something to share that others want or need. You’ve been asked to speak because of your knowledge, accomplishments, position, or other reason.
Are you still going to be nervous? Of course, but not as much and not for the same reasons. Think about a pitcher who is pitching in the World Series for the first time. He is definitely nervous, but he is excited to be there, and those nerves generally subside after the first pitch or two. And when that game is over, he can’t wait for his next opportunity. Will he be nervous again? Definitely! Will he let that stop him? No!
How changing focus benefits the audience
Here’s the sobering fact. The audience is more concerned about what they get from listening to you than they are about you. Isn’t that great? Absolutely!
Your audience is in attendance to glean information, inspiration, and/or ideas from you. Knowing, understanding, and keeping this fact front and center helps you create and deliver a presentation that meets these expectations. As a result, they get what they want, need, and expect and you have less pressure in providing it.
Delivering presentations is not a natural talent. There are things you should know and do so you can better help your audiences. But that’s not what we’re discussing here. To a certain degree, as long as you develop an audience-centric presentation and deliver it without a lot of distractions, you’ll be fine.
Your audiences are not there to see the next great orator. They’re there to learn, to be challenged, to be inspired. So take this to heart – a presentation that serves the audience and is delivered well is much more valuable than one that is expertly delivered but misses the mark.
That’s it… the ultimate public speaking principle. It is always, always, always about the audience!