Why Your Presentation Shouldn't Be About You

December 15, 2014

Primary-reason-to-give-a-presentation-Cover-blogWhile leading a presentation training session recently, an interesting theme emerged and re-emerged throughout the day -- it's one that plagues all different types of presenters.

There were lots of great questions, and all of them stemmed from the same place. A few excerpts from the day:

How should I dress for my presentation?

How can I keep from looking fake but rather authentic?

How do I simplify my content and data?

How can I not look anxious or nervous when on stage?

How do I add videos into my presentation?

The commonality of these questions is that they all exist because the presenter has an intense desire to be liked, to look good, to impress, and most importantly to make a positive impact on the audience. And, therein lies the problem: If the above is your objective, then your perspective is all wrong. A presentation is not about you, it’s about your audience.

Let’s revisit the questions above. They all have “I” in the question, and that’s where things can quickly go wrong. When unchecked, this approach can easily make its way into a presentation unknowingly. I’ll give you an example.

Here’s a classic agenda slide:


Now, if you had the right focus on your audience, you would remove your agenda slide and replace it with something like this:




Notice the dramatic difference? The emphasis is put on them, and not you and your agenda. You'll thus hold their attention more and better engage them -- and then ultimately be more successful in getting your agenda done. Just imagine if this philosophy existed throughout your entire presentation.

Tips for Making it About Your Audience

If you are looking for additional tips on how to focus on your audience, please also consider the following to make sure you are adding value in every presentation situation:

1. Don’t Forget the Personalities

As I have mentioned in earlier posts, your audience is always going to be a 50/50 balance of introverts and extroverts. The lesson here: Make sure your message and content appeals to both groups. So, you’ll need to have interactive exercises for the extroverts with also a decent amount of lecture material so your introverts can absorb information in peace without the fear of being called upon.

2. Don’t Let Your Information Get Filtered

Audiences tend to filter information that doesn’t confirm their beliefs. For instance, if someone has bought Nike shoes all of their life, they aren’t going to be incredibly interested if their friend is trying to convince them to buy a new pair of Reeboks. Make sure you know your audience so you can angle your content to support their belief system.

3. Don’t Leave Them Guessing

If I were to pull you aside and start presenting to you, my guess is that you would be 1) startled and then 2) confused. Why? You have no context. As presenters, it is always our responsibility to paint the picture by opening with a story, providing background material, or trying any other technique that provides context. In other words, provide the foundation, then build from there.

Let’s focus less on us, and more on our audiences.

Author Bio

Scott Schwertly is the author of How to Be a Presentation God and CEO ofEthos3, a Nashville, TN-based presentation boutique providingprofessional presentation design and training for national and international clients ranging from Fortune 500 companies to branded individuals like Guy Kawasaki. If Scott is not working with his team building presentations, you will find him in the pool, on the bike, or on a long run. Scott lives in Nashville, TN with his wife and three dogs. He has a B.A. and M.B.A. from Harding University.

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Now, if you had the right focus on your audience, you would remove your agenda slide and replace it with something like this: