Audience Engagement

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Earlier today I had the opportunity to present to a group of new entrepreneurs at Ann Arbor SPARK’s Start Your Own Business.  SYOB is a monthly event hosted by the business incubator to help drive new business development.  I’m one of the speakers at this day-long event.

How I present was largely driven by corporate experience.  What little training I could find, focused on what size fonts to use, color selection, number/length of bullets per screen, and the like.  Believe it or not, none of it really had much to do with delivering an impactful message.

The past two years I have been increasingly attentive to how I give presentations.  My favorite person on the topic is Garr Reynolds, an American ex-pat living in Tokyo, and author of PresentationZen.  Most recently, I’ve started reading Nancy Duarte’s book, Resonate.

For this morning’s presentation I chucked my planned approach about 15 minutes before the event.  Rather than open with an ‘about me’ slide, or simply diving right in, I took a few minutes to simply ask the audience what their concerns were.  Then I framed my presentation as a possible solution to those concerns.

Ok, for the better speakers among us, this is melodramatic.  What I did find, was the audience warmed up to me more quickly.  I’d like to think I more effectively connected by simply asking them what their concerns were, rather than ‘assuming’ I knew.  Even though I’ve been doing this particular activity for a year, it helps to remember each audience is fresh, and they want their concerns to be understood.

The short message for today: Don’t Forget the Audience!  You’re presenting for them. Anything you get out of it, is a bi-product.  Any business you get is a result of their being onboard with you.  And, you know, it can make it a lot more fun for everyone involved.