Valentine’s Day got me thinking this year…. One of the core definitions of love is that we put others’ needs above our own. Some experts have said that we, as human beings, operate out of two base emotions: love and fear. Studies have also found that public speaking is the NUMBER ONE fear in the world! Yet it’s a necessary situation we all find ourselves in.

Let’s play out this scenario: It’s the day of your presentation, speech, or meeting. You have done all your homework, your research is checked and double-checked, those slides are ready, and your notes are prepared. You have practiced in the mirror, picked out your outfit, and you might have even gotten a haircut.

You’re running through your presentation script in your mind and checking that your slide deck is set. All the “what if’s” are screaming in your ears; what if I forget something? What if I trip? What if I have something in my teeth? What if they don’t like me?

And waiting for the moment it will all be over. Hold up! What?

You did all that research and preparation, thought through how you will look, and for what? To spew out the information so you can get back to your seat as quickly as possible?

We often think that if we spend time researching and preparing our content, we have done our job. In turn, it is the audiences’ job to show up and receive the information we have so painstakingly assembled for them, right?

Wrong! As a presenter, it is not the audience’s job to like you. It is your job to LOVE your audience and ensure they feel cared for. The question is, how do we do that?

Answer: We stop talking AT our audience and begin speaking TO them. What do we do when conversing with a friend, coworker, or loved one, mainly when it is a subject we feel passionate about?

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We slow down. We make eye contact. We make sure we are heard and that our important points land.

We consider THEIR point of view and shape our words and conversations with THEIR thoughts and feelings in mind.

Why should it be any different for your audience? The willingness to take the time to consider what the AUDIENCE wants and NEEDS, vs. your need to demonstrate your expertise on a particular topic or subject, is the most generous thing we can give to our audiences.

Some great questions to ask yourself when you are building your presentation are:

Who are they?

What might they want from me?

How can I not only engage but continue to reengage my audience?

Am I welcoming conversation or questions at the end of my presentation?

Am I framing my message with relevant information?

Am I including too much information in my message?

Am I valuing my audience’s time?

Am I matching my audience’s energy?

Your intentions are focused on your audience by asking yourself a few simple questions. Ask yourself these questions multiple times, and follow them with “Why?” Find a mission statement for your presentation that is outside of it simply being necessary.

Ken Haemer, a former presentation manager at AT&T, summed up what you need to think about when presenting, “Designing a presentation without an audience in mind is like writing a love letter and addressing it ‘to whom it may concern.”

Therefore, the next time you prepare for that presentation, write that love letter! Let your audience feel the love.

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