Audience Engagement

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Previously, 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 have been 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.

Image credit:
Kids – Cédric Aellen

1 Comment

  1. Good approach, I think, because it communicates to the audience right away, before they can get any different ideas, that they matter to you and that you want to hear from them. It also allows you a chance to fine tune your presentation, if possible, to make it fit. If there is no interaction or personalization of your message, they may as well just be watching your video on youtube in the comfort of their own home or office.

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