How to give an effective presentation – Ten things the audience needs to hear from you in a presentation…

need to hearWhether they out and out ask you or whether they sit there and think these questions, here are 10 things the audience need to hear from you when you deliver your presentation:

1. Do I need to worry about you?  A strange one to start off with and in most cases, audiences need to know that you are OK, that you are credible (see 2 below), that you are confident, that you are in control.  If there is any doubt about that they will feel sorry for you at best and irritated at worst.  Either way they are not listening to you. So how you look and how you sound are vital, especially at the beginning before you even speak.

2. Will it be an effort to listen to you? (and is it worth it? – see point 4, 5, 6).  People make up their minds very quickly about whether they want to listen to you and in part this is about how easy it will be.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that your subject matter is an easy topic, more that people can easily listen and absorb and process the information and content you are delivering.

3. Why you?  What right do you have to speak to me about this subject?  I have written another blog about this here and this is a useful reminder that when you stand up and speak out you need to do this with credibility and from a basis of strength i.e. knowledge, expertise, enthusiasm, personal experience and even ‘your take’ on the subject.

4. Why me?  Audiences need to know that this is relevant to them or they will not listen.  You may know they need to hear this but do they?  Make sure that the language and structure you use makes it clear that this is about them and their experiences of the world.  If you have heard me speak, this is what I call the “so what’ factor!

5. Why this? We have to be smart and clear about how we talk about our business, our message, our mission.  Audiences might realise it is relevant but they will also be aware of other options and likely, in this modern world of Google, YouTube and Wikipedia , have much more background information as well.  Presenting our take on things in context is a great skill and very necessary

6. What is in it for me?  Once the audience knows this is relevant, they start to listen and what they really want to know is how this is going to affect and benefit them.  How is this going to make their life easier, efficient, fun, stress-less, rewarding, effortless, enjoyable, stretching etc.

7. Why now? If you are asking for action to be taken then the audience needs to know why they should do it now rather than next week, next year, sometime.  Relating this to their experiences, adding in urgency, using language that is now and of the moment can help do this effectively

8. What are the next steps?  It always amazes me that so many speakers forget or are frightened to ask their audience to do something as a result of their presentation. They fudge the sale, they wish wash the next steps, they blur the outcome.  Be bold – if you want someone to change their behaviour, make a decision, accept a recommendation, then say so…(look out for a future blog about how to do this with elegance and ease)

9. What behaviours do you want from me in this presentation?  This might seems an odd one but here is the thing.  If you don’t set the tone and the standard and even lay out the ‘rules’ of the game, the audience will make up their own. Have you ever been in a presentation where the audiences has interrupted the speaker with questions, stood up half way, drifted off into a discussion, not taken notes when they needed to, taken notes when there were reference material etc.?  You will know how disruptive at best and destructive at worst, this lack of control can be.  Audiences can be very well behaved and compliant even when it comes to behaviour if you are clear (and reasonable) about setting the standards.

10. How long will this be? A very practical question we will all have asked at some point.  Even when the presentation is fabulous, there is only so long we can actively listen for – especially in a business context.  Make sure you tell people, never apologise for the length (however long or short it is ), keep to time and aim to finish a wee bit under.  No one ever said, ‘ I wish that presentation had been half an hour longer”!

What other questions do you think audiences need answering in a presentation?  Please comment below.  And if you would like to find out how we can help you in your presentations, then contact us using

, , , , ,

2 Responses to How to give an effective presentation – Ten things the audience needs to hear from you in a presentation…

  1. Peter Billingham August 8, 2013 at 10:43 am #

    Very interesting and informative points. Many speakers often forget the importance of asking the question, what is the outcome that I am looking for? Having this in mind when writing and delivering is really important as you state, because how do you know if you have been successful in communication? Also, the “why me” question is very important to answer, because we need to identify and build engagement immediately otherwise people switch off and fall to sleep as you say. Excellent post.

  2. Catherine Sandland August 8, 2013 at 11:14 am #

    Thanks Peter for your comments. People sometimes think about outcomes but only from their own perspective. So if they want to sell something, they build the presentation around that. Instead of thinking that the outcome is for people to buy and building a presentation around what the audience need to know, feel and do in order for them to want to buy. Really appreciate your input, thank you

Leave a Reply