I’ve been teaching presentation skills for a long time. Things like controlling your nerves, how to use visual aids, organizing your presentation, the use of analogy and story, and how to field audience questions like a pro.
But today I’d like to focus on a completely different aspect of presentations — the listener’s experience.
If you get stage fright, if you are up nights before a presentation worrying about your performance, if you start to sweat and shake just from thinking about making any sort of business presentation, taking the focus off yourself and putting it on your audience might help.
Instead of focusing on yourself, your nerves, your opportunity and your fear that you’re about to blow it, why not try switching up your focus? Designing your presentation with your listeners in mind will take your focus away from your skills (or perceived lack thereof) and onto your audience members’ skills. After all, they are there to learn! What can you help them with? What new experience or perspective can you offer them?
Focus on the needs of your listeners. Can you ...
- Offer them a new perspective on an old or controversial idea?
- Give them clarity on confusing issues?
- Bring a new visual or analogy to the table that will open their eyes and get them excited?
- Offer new tips or tricks that will make their lives easier, allow them to move ahead more quickly in their careers, or avoid any unseen pitfalls?
- Provide the inspiration for energized and insightful discussion at the water cooler for the next week?
- Offer information or perspective that can bring them together on an issue?
- Show them where to get the information they need?
You might be able to use any or all of these ideas in your presentation preparations. You might be able to come up with some other benefits that you can provide your audience.
Remember, it’s all about giving to them. And it’s not just about giving audience members an engaging or informative presentation, it’s about giving them things they need.
Yes, it’s also about giving them a memorable experience, but also something they can take with them back to the office and actually use -- something they’ll want to talk about or share, something that makes them a bit more knowledgeable, efficient, enthusiastic, or smarter.
Sure, there are various hard presentation skills you also need to learn, but if you’re terrified of making a presentation, it’s likely that your focus is in the wrong place. You’ve made it all about you, you, you. So again, switch up your focus.