“That 180 Degree Change That Makes Your Audience Sit Up And Listen!”

In the days when I practised as a psychotherapist, it fascinated me that colleagues, otherwise intelligent, sensitive and well educated people seemed convinced that merely announcing their presence would ensure a steady stream of clients. What amused me was the surprise and outrage when no one came through the door. By then I had learnt the hard way (by spending good money on marketing courses) to:

  1. Decide on who’d be my ideal client (my target market)
  2. Think about what they did, what they read, what would interest them, where they’d be found, what work they’d do and especially what they needed
  3. Figure out what messages would get them excited, asking questions and wanting to know more about the benefits and results of working with me.

In other words, I would need to know them very well and speak to them clearly about the outcomes of our work together. It worked – I had a successful North Oxford practice for 25 years.

More recently, I had a similar sensation when working with engineering students to make influential presentations and promote their innovation. They’d only known academic study. They were used to making internal presentations that talked about what they’ve done. It was a big challenge for them therefore to make that 180 degree change to become audience focused.

It’s almost banal to mention that your audience isn’t interested in what you do. People will only listen if you tell them what you can do for them.

  1. “What are the needs or problems of my audience that I’ve a solution for?” Knowing that means they’ll start to connect when you identify the issues they’ve been bothered or preoccupied by.
  2. “What’s their background?” What information will make them supportive or opposed? It does no harm to mention the elephant in the room – the unspoken something that could be an obstacle to their acceptance of your argument.
  3. “What’s the language they use to describe their problem or issue?” Knowing the words or phrases they use could really make them sit up and take notice.
  4. “What do I want them to think, feel or do afterwards?” Vital. Unless you’re clear about the outcome, it won’t happen! Your audience needs your guidance and if you’ve got them on side, then they’ll be keen to take action. Tell them.

It’s always struck me when planning any successful presentation, the two things which need to be foremost in your mind are:

  1. Do you know your audience?
  2. Do you know your desired outcomes?

If you’ve answered both, you’ve cracked it!


About anrah

Anrah is a business development consultancy specialising in helping senior women in engineering and science, their teams and doctoral students increase 'presence', improve communication and generate impact to win stakeholder buy-in at the highest level.
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