Rule 1 of speaking: Respect your audience

Make it fresh, new and appealing

Just as there is never a ‘one size fits all’ for music, food, clothes, exercise or almost anything else, it is very unlikely that one talk will suit more than one, specific audience. So why is it that so many people, professionals and academics alike, think that they can prepare one talk and then present it on several different occasions? It is often suitable to reproduce some major elements of your talk, but each performance needs to be unique and varied to suit each individual audience and each occasion.

Community groups are especially important

Now, whilst I have often been horrified by senior academic who reuse old slides for conference keynotes presentations, I think I am even more angry when someone representing a public organization gives a hackneyed and inappropriate talk to a community group. Community audiences aren’t used to attending long and boring talks so if they have bothered to come and listen to you, you should make sure that your talk really meets their needs.

Bush fire prevention is a REALLY important topic!

A few weeks ago, I attended a talk on bush fire prevention, presented by a representative of the fire service. Now this was potentially an extremely important talk that we should have left with clear and succinct advice, but this wasn’t the case!Rather, the speaker had prepared a generic talk that he could give to all the different groups he spoke to and this ensured that the talk was far too long,was very confusing, contained a great deal of irrelevant and possibly incorrect advice for us and thus, we did not come away with clear information!

Tourists will get a bad impression and then tell the world

In quite different circumstances, a woman I was chatting to last Saturday was complaining of the same issue. She, and a group of intelligent American tourists had traveled together to see many of the places of interest in Queensland, N.S.W. and Victoria. She said that a couple of the presentations that accompanied the tours had been extremely good, but the majority insulted their intelligence! No doubt these presentations would have suited some groups but not theirs.

So, how can these problems be avoided? Well it’s simple really – you as a speaker need to study your (likely) audience and the actual occasion before you speak. You may have some common theme that is included in all your talks but each occasion,each venue and each audience will be different. You must prepare for this. Don’t insult your audience by re-hashing your standard talk. Show them love and respect by creating a presentation and performance that is designed especially for them. Both you and the audience will win from this.I have prepared a ten-stage course that outlines how to become a proficient and effective speaker. You can see a preview here:

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