What Makes a Presentation Boring – Part 1 – Disconnect with the Level of the Material and the Level of Knowledge of the Audience
One of my college roommates had a tough childhood growing up. One of her parents was mentally ill which as you can imagine caused all kinds of problems for her, her siblings and the other parent. One night, we went to a public showing of Ordinary People on campus and she broke down. She started crying, she leaned on me. She was a wreck the rest of the night. The story line struck a cord and was overwhelming to her. I had an uncomplicated childhood with parents who loved me. The movie did not effect me in the same way it did my roommate. Same movie. Very different audience member responses.
The same can be said of our presentations. Depending on the level of knowledge of the members of our audience, the same content can have a vastly different impact on our audience. Every audience is different. Every member of your audience is different. But when speaking to a group, you need to try as best you can to meet the audience where they are.
When it comes to boring your audience, there are two ways that not reflecting the level of your audience members knowledge can really hurt your message: engaging them at a level below where they’re at – or – engaging them at a level that’s way above their heads.
Below the Audience’s Knowledge Level
If the material you are covering is very basic and the audience members already have the basics, then you are going to bore them to tears, and possibly tick them off. We only get so much time in our days. No one wants have their time wasted by being told information that they already know and can easily do.
Going Way Over the Audience’s Head
When you cover your content at a level that is far beyond the grasp of their current knowledge, you’re also going to bore them. Beyond that, you may also make them feel dumb – and no one likes to be made to feel dumb. While it very engaging to an audience to go slightly beyond their current level of knowledge to educate them and challenge them to increase their abilities, going far beyond their current grasp doesn’t serve you and doesn’t serve them well either.
Know Where Your Audience’s Level Currently Is
Talk to the person who asked you to speak to this audience in the first place. Ask them to tell you about the level of the audience’s knowledge on your subject. Ask to speak to 10 or so people who are likely to be in the audience. Ask those people for their current level of knowledge and what they believe to be the level of knowledge of their colleagues who will also be attending. When you get to the meeting, ask some early arrivers for their feedback. Poll the audience early in your presentation to get a better feel. Do what you can to meet the audience where they are. You might not be able to meet every single person at exactly the right level. But you’ll be a whole lot more successful when you do your homework than if you just assume you know what they need.
How Do You Gauge the Level of Your Audience?
What other methods do you use to gauge the level of your audience so that you know you’re not being too basic or going way over their heads? Share your techniques in the comments below.