Three Simple Words
By Claudia Brogan
Did you ever have some advice given to you that lasts and lasts?
I can remember some wise words taught to me by my amazing mentor and speech class teacher from way back in my high school days.
She started out the class session with giving us a trio of smart words to consider and I have used those 3 simple words nearly every day of my professional speaking life since.
She remarked that if any of us were hoping to be successful speakers, there were really 3 simple, essential words that would guide us. Then she asked us what we thought those words might be. We guessed “Use great quotes” and “Stand up straight” and “Be very funny” and “Close really well.”
Though she found smart advice in each of those suggestions, she wrapped up the guessing time by telling us this:
Once she had our attention with that simple and elegant phrase, she instructed us to heed these words with care and respect. In each of your speeches, she said, and in each presentation, carefully factor in the people to whom you’ll be speaking.
Thoroughly research who they are: what is the setting, what will have happened just prior to your speech? How much do they already know about your topic, what new things or practical things would they like to know about your topic? Are there “sacred cows” or parts of this topic that you need to be careful about or parts of the subject that are controversial and require care and diplomacy?
I have thought of that 3-word advice on many occasions. When I have noticed that a presentation I gave did not connect well with the attendees, I have reflected carefully to examine what might have caused that. More often than not, when a presentation didn’t receive the strongest reviews, I have learned the hard way that I was making the presentation more about *me* than about them. I have been more focused on myself or my delivery than on paying close attention to how the audience members were receiving and connecting with the contents.
Examples and illustrations that I use in presentations are much more potent when audience members can relate clearly. Listeners appreciate and respond to concepts and tips when they can clearly picture themselves being in the same kind of scenarios that I describe. Language and even humor resonate much more strongly when they are suited closely to the industry and the terminology used by the specific listeners in the audience.
“Consider your audience.” Those 3 words are now the lens through which I design and develop the best presentations that I give. I use these words when beginning the earliest draft of a speech and all the way through to the delivery.
Seeing the contents of a presentation through the eyes of our audience members: that’s advice that can guide us from start to finish.
Claudia Brogan is a speaker, trainer and facilitator who helps organizations by coaching presenters, leading collaborative meetings and problem-solving with groups and teams. Reach out to see how she can help you.