respect your audience

A lesson on how not to respect your audience

I attend a lot of presentations and am always on the lookout for what speakers do that turns me on or turns me off.
Last week I attended a digital marketing show and was dismayed to witness one of the invited guest presenters committing one of the cardinal sins of public speaking.  He failed to demonstrate respect for his audience.

How did he do this?

He started his presentation by talking about himself and his company not his audience

Most people understand that part of the deal for being a guest speaker is that you get an opportunity to promote your brand and it’s services, however when you do it is crucial. He opened with his sales pitch bin the form of a cliche ridden “corporate video” and then proceeded to tell us about how good his company were. Sadly for him, most of the people in the room hadn’t come to hear about his business, they had come to learn more about the topic he was supposed to be speaking about.  All the preceding speakers had understood this and had delivered valuable and relevant content before getting to their sales pitch, but not this guy.

As a guest speaker, you have to earn the right to make a sales pitch by delivering interesting, valuable and relevant information up front. Doing so shows that you respect your audience.

He didn’t talk about the topic he was supposed to be speaking about

There are two reasons why most people attend a seminar, a) they want to hear a particular speaker or b) they want to learn more about the topic listed on the programme. The gentleman in question was billed to be speaking about analytics for business growth but announced that he had decided to speak about change instead, citing the reason that he couldn’t come up with an interesting talk about analytics! If that was the case, why did he agree to speak about that topic in the first place! This was frustrating as I for one would not have stayed to listen to him had I known that he wasn’t going to talk about the topic I wanted to learn about most.

Guest presenters – please respect your audience by speaking about the topic you are booked to speak on.

He didn’t make his presentation relevant to the audience in the room.

Have you ever sat through a presentation thinking “how is this relevant to me?” Well that was what I thought as this gentleman’s talk started to unfold. His content was pitched towards big companies, but his audience were mostly SME’s and the examples he was giving did not easily relate to us. What’s more, he didn’t make any attempt show that there were principles in what he was saying that could be applied to any size of organisation.

Speakers, please  respect your audience by doing your homework first. Understand the type of people in the room and then adapt your talk to suit their situation and needs.

Why does it matter?

Sharing your expertise with a large audience is a fantastic marketing opportunity. Get it right, and you have the opportunity to showcase your expertise and start a relationship with a large group of people, some of whom could later become clients, referrers or advocates. Get it wrong and not only do you ruin the opportunity to start a dialogue, but you also damage your reputation and your brand. Judging from the conversations I had after this presentation, it seems that I was not alone in my views. People said that they felt talked down to and short-changed in terms of the content they were expecting to hear. What a waste of 45 minutes!

How can YOU avoid these elementary mistakes?

  1. Started by remembering that your audience, not you are the most important people in the room
  2. Don’t agree to talk about something you are not comfortable with
  3. Stick to the topic people are expecting you speak on
  4. Take time to understand your audience and then tailor your messages and examples to suit your listeners

I hope you found this article on respect your audience of value. You can find more articles about public speaking on my blog or in my bite-sized business book The Presenter’s Edge.


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