I had reason to sit in on a brief, fifteen minute lecture recently, where an SEO specialist was setting out Search Engine Optimisation tactics to a group of amateur Mum bloggers.
He started off well, giving a quick round-up of what SEO actually means – it’s about improving where your website gets ranked in Google search results. I thought: don’t they know this already? And why did it take you three slides to explain what I just summarized in one sentence?
Then, wham! He went straight into the technical behind-the-scenes changes you can make to your website. Suddenly, we were talking meta tags and key words. I thought: he’s speeding through because it’s on the clock – and he’s losing every one of these women.
A member of the audience politely asked if he could slow down, and speak up. I thought: this is your chance to respond. They’re asking you to change your tack.
The guy spoke up, and sped up, and left an even more confused audience in his wake. I thought: what a shame. For him and for them. He has lots of knowledge that he’s failing to share, and they really want and need this advice. The result? A couple of people asked him to clarify what he was talking about. Eventually, they all gave up and waited for the bitter end.
After the presentation, I loitered while many of the women stayed and asked him all sorts of questions, and he gave thoughtful, helpful, practical advice. He knew what he was talking about – there was no doubt about that. But he had in no way thought about how he could make his knowledge fit the audience he was speaking to. More about Fit here.
Preparation: Making your Presentation ‘Fit’
Tom (the SEO expert) is a clever guy, and if, in his preparation, he had taken a few seconds to think about the audience he was about to face, he could have developed a pretty sound idea of their existing knowledge of SEO and the things that he could to to simplify, support and inspire his willing audience to use SEO to their advantage in future. And he’d probably have sold more of his services in future too.
Even better, Tom could have emailed, rung or chatted to a few of the audience well beforehand to give him an even better chance to do well for himself and for them. He could have asked 3 simple questions-
- Of all these things I could talk about, what would you like me to concentrate on?
- What aren’t you interested in?
- Could you give me any advice that will help me do a great job for you?
If he’d done any of these things he’d have realised that –
- 95% of his audience would be using either WordPress or Blogger.
- He would have recognised that most of his audience wasn’t interested in Google Adwords techniques.
- And it would have been obvious that what his audience really wanted as a few simple steps they could take to raise their blog ranking for a particular keyword phrase.
Once he had found out these things, he could have planned the presentation his audience were hoping for. Not the one they got.
Making Sure your Presentation Fits on the Day
But the Tom”s mistake wasn’t just in his preparation – it was compounded by the way he dealt with the issue of ‘Fit’ when it presented itself to him in the room.
His audience, very politely, pointed out explicitly with their questions and implicitly with their body language, that they weren’t getting what they wanted. And the poor old Tom carried on giving the presentation he had prepared in spite of the audience’s polite protestations.
What would a more experienced speaker have done?
- She’d have realised, as soon as the first question came, that they didn’t understand what she was talking about.
- She’d have asked for more questions to help her focus on their real interests, and
- By letting the audience lead the discussion, she’d have know for sure that it fitted the things they wanted to know and understand.
New and/or nervous presenters are understandably afraid to stray too far from the controllable, but truthfully, that’s how we can really connect with an audience. And when that happens we can have some of the most fulfilling and interesting discussions of our careers.
This is a part of my Fit, Focus & Flair model. To be great, a presentation must be a perfect FIT for the situation; the content must have complete FOCUS on it’s purpose and message; and it must have enough FLAIR to stand out on the day, and in our memories. Learn more about developing your Fit, Focus and Flair.