Maybe I’ve been at this whole presentations thing too long, (very doubtful) but last week I lost it. As Popeye said, “I had all I can stands, and I can’t stands no more.” I told a presenter that her presentation as it stood (not her delivery; the content) was a clear example of Audience Abuse. Strong language, yes. But as a service to poor unsuspecting audiences everywhere, I felt I had to be as blunt and straightforward as possible.
What constitutes Audience Abuse? For starters, telling an audience you’re going to speak for 20 minutes and then speaking for four times that. Not having a clear cut point, path, beginning, middle or end. Not having 3-5 (ONLY) important points and then making them clearly and compellingly. Not discerning the difference between “need to know” and “nice to know”. Not reading the looks on the audiences faces to see that they have indeed had all they can stand.
We must honor our audiences. We must take the time, and lots of it, to discern what is important to them and how best to deliver that message. What language will be most compelling? What will our 3-5 points be and in what order so that they’re most impactful to our audience? Once we’ve got these things figured out we must practice OUT LOUD to make sure we’ve got the right pieces in the right places in the allotted time frame. (preferably shorter than what the audience has allotted.)
Please, please, please; I beg of you. DO NOT get in front of anyone, even your kids, your dog, or your kids’ stuffed animals, before you have figured these things out. Audiences are trusting us to value their time and attention. In fact, that’s the least we can do as presenters. Ideally we want to give them HUGE HUGE value in the time they’ve given us. We need to honor them and their time and attention by planning and preparing with only one thing in mind; THEM. Neglecting them, failing to prepare, regurgitating old, boring, ill-conceived, irrelevant to them information is nothing short of abusive. And no way, by the way, to be heard.