How to Make Your Audience Thirsty

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Some of you may recognise the photo from the film ‘Ice Cold in Alex’…it’s a classic! The beer represents your message, idea, product or service, and by the end of your presentation, this is how you want your audience to feel about it.

I’ve seen so many people doing pitches and presentations make the same fatal error…they make it all about them. How many sales presentations have you seen where the opening slide says things like…

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I was at a networking last year, where several speakers spent all their time talking about their achievements and then proceeded to broadcast their message. To stand a chance of landing your message, you first need to address the audience’s needs, problems and desires.

I’m not saying it’s bad to talk about yourself, your business, or your brilliance, but it’s got to be meaningful to the context of the message.

Screenwriter Chad Hodge said the following in the Harvard Business Review: 

“Everyone wants to be the star, or at least to feel that the story is talking to or about him personally.”

This is so true…we love watching TV shows and films that reflect us and our issues…people who want to lose weight watch ‘The Biggest Loser’, people who love property watch things like ‘Homes under the Hammer’, and people who’ve lost all sense watch the Kardashians.
 
All of us humans pay attention when we believe that there is something in it for us… as a speaker, the gift you are giving usually falls into one of three categories… information, inspiration, or education…and ultimately, both you and the audience are hoping that this will lead to transformation.  

(Important note here… if you are pitching anything you need to be talking 90% about the transformation and 10% about the how…as the brilliant Lisa Sasevich says…”when you go to book your holiday, you’re buying the destination, not the plane!”)
 
Nancy Duarte – Owner of Duarte Communications and author of Slideology and Resonate, proposes using the story structure found in movies to lead our audiences through the presentation. All movies use the Mythical Hero’s Journey for their structure. Think about any Hollywood movie… there is a relatable and likeable hero. They encounter roadblocks. Then they emerge transformed. 
 
Act One sets up the story, introduces the characters, relationships, and establishes the hero’s unfulfilled desire, which is what the plot is based on.
 
Act Two presents the dramatic action, or conflict. The hero encounters obstacles that keep them from achieving their desire. 
 
Act Three resolves the story. 
 
All stories have a beginning middle and end and plot points where the story is spun around in another direction.
 
A great presentation is similar to a screenplay in several ways:

  • It has a clear beginning, middle and end
  • It has an identifiable inherent structure
  • The first plot point captures the audience’s interest and intrigue
  • The beginning and end are much shorter than the middle.

Heroes normally experience both physical and psychological journeys and that’s also true of your audience. They are experiencing your presentation, and internally they are evaluating everything you say and making judgements and decisions about it.

At the beginning of your presentation your aim is to show them where they are…their world and their problem. Then you present a new alternative, your world…the possible transformation they could have. (This could be as short as one sentence – but it should grab their attention).

In the middle, you contrast their world and your world and address any objections, or barriers they might have. Your aim is to get them to have an ‘aha’ moment, or epiphany on the inside, which alters their perception.

The end is where you get them to the threshold of your world and invite them to cross. Your presentation takes them there, but they must decide to cross.

But…to take your audience on this journey you need to know what they want, where they are in relation to the problem, and how to connect with them… What do you know about your audience? What brings them together to listen to you? Is there a common demographic? Is there a common interest?

Once you have some answers to these questions, you can begin to think about how to position your presentation.

I found this great business parable that is linked to this and has resonated with me. My friends over at Animate That have made an animation of this below.

Now, I know you might be thinking… “well I’m doing a presentation, I’m not selling”. The thing is, I truly believe that every time we are communicating with intention we are selling. Whether it’s an interview, a keynote speech or trying to get your other half to empty the dishwasher… we’re selling!

The bottom line is, that our job as presenters and speakers, (whether that’s 121 or one to many), is to make the audience thirsty for the transformation that our solution can provide them, and take them through the Hero’s Journey to get them to cross the line into our world.

Summary:

  • Always take the time to think about what your audience wants and where they are in relation to the problem
  • Treat the audience as the hero of the story and plan to take them on an epic journey
  • Use contrast throughout your presentation to show the audience what their life is like now, and what it could be like
  • Include a call to action which enables the audience to decide to follow you into your world or stay in theirs.

I have put together a great infographic of the audience’s ‘Hero’s Journey’ to use as a reminder, and structure for when you are planning your presentations. You can grab your copy here

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