When you have a captive audience, it's important that you
make the most of the opportunity.
Learn how by looking at what your audience needs.
Listen to Ep. 2 - The Radio Station Everyone Listens To: WIIFM.
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You’re listening to the “Sound Check” Podcast, episode number 2. “Everybody listens to WIIFM.”
Welcome to “Sound Check,” a podcast by a speaker, for speakers. Are you looking to knock your next presentation out of the park? Well then you’ve come to the right place! And now your host, Sari de la Motte...
Welcome to “Sound Check!” My name is Sari de la Motte. I’m a presentation coach, speaker and trial consultant and I’m so excited that you’re listening to today’s podcast!
In my last podcast, I talked about how attention is a precious commodity. And how everyone is a public speaker. Now, because attention is such a precious resource, as speakers we need to do everything possible to ensure that our presentation meets the needs of the audience. It is such an honor in today’s day and age to have anyone’s attention; it seems that everyone has their eyes glued to a screen of one sort or another. Therefore it is so important when we do have that attention, of that audience, that we make the most out of that opportunity.
So in today’s podcast we’re going to talk about how to do that, and we’re going to start by looking at what our audience needs.
I can’t remember where I heard this, but it’s so true: there’s one radio station that everyone, and I mean everyone listens to, and that’s WIIFM: What’s In It For Me?
Anyone in any audience listening to any speaker needs you to answer the question: What’s In It For Me? They’re asking themselves, “Why should I listen to you? How does this apply to my life? How can I use this information?”
And yet I find speakers rarely stop to consider how their information applies to their audience when putting their presentations together. Instead of starting with their audience in mind, speakers begin with what’s important to them, what they find interesting, what they want to teach or talk about and often this information isn’t nearly as exciting to their audience as it is to the speaker.
Just this past month I was brought in to be a speaker coach for a group that was putting together a conference with dozens of speakers from all over the United States. The speakers were tasked with having to give short Ted-Talk like speeches and my job was to help them prepare. As I met with the speakers over the past several weeks a theme began to emerge: every time I asked what the speaker planned on presenting at the conference I got an earful. When I asked how that information applied to the audience, I got silence.
For example, I worked with a university president who was brought in over ten years ago to help save a failing university. He had never been a university president before, he hadn’t even ever held a job in higher ed before. Nevertheless he was able to turn the school around and is now graduating students at higher and higher rates every year. It’s a terrific, inspiring story. But it’s not enough. Why? Because it’s not enough just to tell the story of his success. The university president has to make that story relevant to his audience. What about his story applies to them? How can they use the lessons he learned along the way in their own lives? This is where a good presentation becomes a great one; when the speaker is able to translate his or her experience in a way that resonates with the audience so that they can identify with it and make it relevant to their own lives.
This reminds me of a Maya Angelou quote, and I’m paraphrasing, where she said, “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” It’s not your content, in a presentation, that produces change or inspires or educates, it’s how or really if that content resonates with the listener.
I mean take a story, like the inspiring one I just mentioned about the university president. His story only becomes meaningful to his audience when it applies to them personally. Annette Simmons, author of The Story Factor says,
“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith—faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell. It is faith that moves mountains, not facts.
“Story is your path to creating faith. Telling a meaningful story means inspiring your listeners—coworkers, leaders, subordinates, family, or a bunch of strangers—to reach the same conclusions you have reached and decide for themselves to believe what you say, and do what you want them to do. People value their own conclusions more highly than yours. They will only have faith in a story that has become real for them personally. Once people make your story, their story, you have tapped into the powerful force of faith. Future influence will require very little follow-up energy from you and may even expand as people recall your story to others.”
And in fact many times people will remember your story or content incorrectly becausethey’ve resonated with it so deeply, and they’ve made it their own. Elisabeth Gilbert (who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, which was the most popular book whatever year that was written, a few years ago), in her book Big Magic about creativity, she tells a story that illustrates this point beautifully. She says, ‘One day, a woman came up to me at a book signing and said “Eat, Pray, Love changed my life. You inspired me to leave my abusive marriage and set myself free. It was all because of that one moment in your book; that moment when you describe putting a restraining order on your ex-husband because you’d had enough of his violence and you weren’t going to tolerate it any more.”’ Elizabeth Gilbert says, ‘“A restraining order? Violence? That never happened! Not in my book, nor in my actual life. You can’t even read that narrative between the lines in my memoir because it’s so far from the truth.” But that woman had subconsciously inserted that story, her own story, into my memoir because, I suppose, she needed to.’ What this story says to me is that the content doesn’t matter nearly as much as the resonance.
So. How do you ensure your content resonates with an audience? It has to speak to them. Personally. There are many many ways to do this, several we’ll cover in subsequent podcasts, but the easiest way is to solve a problem for your audience. Start by asking yourself two things before putting together your presentation. First, “what’s the problem?” and then, “what’s the solution?”
Now when I ask “what’s the problem” I don’t mean what do you think the problem is. I mean, what does your AUDIENCE see as the problem?
Take one of my presentations I give quite often to trial attorneys: From Hostage to Hero: Four Strategies to Entice Jurors to Willingly Join Your Team. In that presentation I talk about how jurors are hostages because they can’t choose to not participate in jury selection. This is how I see the problem. But it’s not how attorneys see the problem. In fact, they’ve rarely thought about jurors like this. I can’t just say that’s the problem and leave it at that. I need to speak to the attorney’s problem first: the unwillingness of jurors to find in their favor, much less speak to them in jury selection! THIS is the problem for attorneys; the fact that jurors won’t participate in the process. When I explain why -- that jurors are hostages and therefore all the things that attorneys have tried up to that point aren’t working -- now I get buy in. I’ve married my version of the problem with theirs: ie, jurors won’t talk to you because they’re hostages! And then when I offer my solution, which is “get to the issue instead of attempting to create relationship,” attorneys are more able to accept and believe that my method has merit.
So often what we think is interesting just doesn’t do it for our audience.
For example, one of my clients is an up and coming speaker who specializes in fraud. She’s a fraud examiner and speaks to other fraud examiners, small business owners and non-profits. She’s passionate about it, and a great speaker, but she was having trouble connecting with her audiences on occasion. One session she came in and said she had taken my advice to create a free downloadable PDF on her website to capture emails but hardly anyone had downloaded it. I asked her what she had chosen for her content. I don’t remember it exactly, but it was something like, “Top 10 Female Criminals” or “Top 10 Female Women Who Have Created Fraud” or something like that.
That’s when I had to share that although she thought that was interesting and on its face it IS interesting, it doesn’t solve a problem. We’re inundated with so much information these days that bids for attention have to immediately be of interest to the listener. I suggested she try something like, “10 Ways Business Owners Encourage Employee Fraud” or something to that effect, and I bet she gets more interest.
So what problem does your audience have and how does your presentation solve it? Start there and I’m certain your next presentation will certainly be a winner.
Between now and the next podcast, I invite you to look at my website www.saridlm.com, and join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/saridlm. Have a presentation coming up? Schedule a free 30-minute Discovery Session with me to see if it makes sense for us to work together. I’d love to chat with you. The link to do this is on our website, on the Coaching page, and it’s also included in the Show Notes.
Thanks everyone for joining us, and until we meet again, I invite you to “Find Your Voice and Speak It Powerfully.”
Sari de la Motte is the host of "Sound Check" a podcast for speakers looking for tips on how to increase their "executive presence" and ability to confidently connect with their audience.