There are many reasons why we give presentations and speeches that just don’t “fit”. All of the reasons though are about the same thing, our message doesn’t fit because we that we don’t have a clear understanding of our audience’s needs and wants from the speech. Finding out, before we start to prepare, is a practised art of the brilliant presenter.
Let’s pretend that you’re a bus driver, called Norman. Norman is a confident driver and his confidence is one of his greatest assets. He fills his bus with passengers and they admire his coach, they like the music and the scenery they see through the windows and for the first 10 minutes all goes well. One person suddenly notices that they’ve been down the same road twice and says “Norman, where are we going?” Norman swallows hard and replies, “I don’t really know!”
If you begin your journey without a destination in mind your passengers may enjoy the ride but eventually they’ll get upset. They each have their own destinations in mind, they’re busy people, they’ve got a million things they could be doing now, and if you can’t help them get to where they want to go, they’ll give up and go home. Even if they stick with you to the end of the line, they’ll remember that you got lost, and choose another driver next time. People are always looking for a bus, or speech, to take them somewhere that’s useful to them, even if it’s not pleasant when they get there.
In the the real world of work. I agree, you don’t always get to choose your destination. Sometimes your boss says,
“Look just put together a few slides on the business for a guy we’ve got coming over to head office, about 30 minutes worth…” and that’s it.
Sometimes too, we turn up ready to go, to find a disaster in the offing. If you turn up on the day ready to go, you’ve got no real choices when you find out that 80% of your audience have buckets and spades for the beach, and your sat nav is programmed for Birmingham. (Which for those who don’t know Birmingham in the UK, is a bit of a disaster).
It’s too late to do much else; unless you’re a brilliant improviser (and not many of us are) you have to dance with the guy you came with. And on you go with the devastating opening line:
“Well ladies and gentlemen I’ve some disappointing news…” Great start.
But let’s be really clear here. When this happens we have helped to cause the problem. It’s us who gets hurt by looking foolish so it’s your responsibility to know your audience before you start any prep.