You’ve likely already had to give an important presentation in your career. If not, you will, and if you have, there’ll be more. So why not arm yourself to get it really right? Big presentations are pivotal moments in your career–much momentum, or missed opportunity, results, depending on how you do.
As a professional speaker, I’ve given hundreds and hundreds of talks and regularly dispense advice to help others up their public speaking game. So I’m taking the opportunity to do so again, while blending it with advice that really caught my eye. Briar Goldberg, TED’s director of speaker coaching, has helped countless speakers prepare for the hard to obtain and demanding TED stage. She recently shared her perspective on what makes the best talks on ideas.ted.com.
Goldberg starts with fairly standard advice that is still a big miss for many speakers: First and foremost, you have to build your talk with your audience in mind. It’s what she followed with that really caught my eye, though. She says to do this in a powerful way, ask yourself one powerful question: “What gift are you giving to your audience?“
Thinking of your talk as a gift forces you to raise the bar on everything about it –the content, the delivery, the preparation, everything. If it doesn’t feel like a gift after you write and rehearse your talk, there’s more work to do. Goldberg’s counsel inspired me so share what I believe are the six essential gifts you can give your audience (depending on the objective of your presentation).
People sit down in front of you for an hour or more to learn something they can take action on. But I’d argue that not just any learning will do–it needs to be compelling enough to move the audience to action.
That’s why I build epiphanies into my talks, four to six anchor points placed throughout the talk that clear the bar for being super insightful and compelling. Don’t fret if you don’t solve the earth’s mysteries in your talk; common knowledge can be made into an epiphany if emphasized in a memorable way, if expressed in a clever turn of phrase, or by applying it to an audience’s specific situation or circumstance.
2. A transformation
People not only want to learn something from you, they want to change something because of you. At a minimum, you have the chance to point out what needs to change about their behavior and why (often to achieve a desired outcome you’re making the case for), and how they can begin to make that change.
While a transformation can feel daunting to deliver, ask yourself, “What’s the first step the audience can take to begin the transformation I’m highlighting?” Then share at least that. The journey of 1,000 miles begins with one step.
3. A solution to a problem
Professional speakers often get hired to solve a problem. For example, I get hired as a speaker to help companies struggling with employee engagement, employee retention, and hiring, or that are facing a lot of change and want to thrive in the face of it. Ask in advance what problems your audience is struggling with, what’s keeping them up at night. Talking to the audience in a way that demonstrates you understand their issue and presenting crisp solutions is a tremendous gift to give.
4. Direction and a plan to get started
Sometimes you might expose a problem the audience didn’t know they had. That’s a gift, but you can’t leave them hanging. Provide some direction and a plan for how to begin tackling the issue you’ve uncovered. Audiences want tangible next steps, and since not enough speakers do this well, doing so will feel like a gift to them.
5. Entertainment and escape
A good talk feels like an escape. Whether it’s riveting, wildly informative and insightful, transformational, funny, sad at times, or involves any number of other emotions, audiences love the chance to feel. Something. Anything. The opposite of which is what’s usually felt in the standard 60-minute talk–nothing. Wallpaper.
Ask yourself if your talk will take people away from their daily lives for an hour in the way you intend it to.
6. A greater sense of community
You can also give the gift of creating a stronger sense of community among the audience. I often talk to corporations whose audience is all going through something together. They need to hit a big sales goal, they’re all struggling with the same issues, they’re all facing huge shifts in their company and industry. Ask yourself if you have a chance to create a more connected community via your messaging.
What gift are you giving your audience? It’s a brilliant question to ask. Craft an equally good answer.