Presenting is Listening?!

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Presentation might sound like a word that implies a one-way direction – from presenter to the audience: I give you data, stories and my opinion and you listen and receive. The goal is to convince you of what I bring to the table and not be interrupted by any objection.

Mmm. In today’s economic environment, presentations long have changed from this one-sided dry conviction driven report to interactive experiences. And this is a key word : “experience”!

What will make your audience remember is your skill to provide an experience for them while they listen to you.

How to do that?

There are several tools and skills needed to do so. The one I want to discuss today is listening! Listening to your audience before, during and after the presentation is essential to make you stand out and make your talk memorable.

  • Before: This is where the memorable presentation starts. Research your audience by “listening” to them. Ask the following questions before you start designing your presentation:

    –       Who is going to be sitting in on my presentation?

    –       What are they dealing with every day?

    –       What language do they speak, literally and figuratively?

    –       What is their working background?

    –       What is their motivation to attend your presentation?

    If you have the chance, meet them beforehand, interact and listen to them to find out what they are all about. This “before listening” is crucial to the design of your presentation because you want to make it relevant for your audience.

      • During: Listening while you speak, pausing, taking in what your audience is perceiving and how they are digesting your information makes a HUGE difference. This is the anti-intuitive part – one could interject that as a presenter you are the one who is speaking and being listened to. But remember you want to provide an experience. And doing that requires building a rapport with your audience, to establish a relationship, to make them hang on your lips. And you achieve this by listening to them, by picking up on your audience’s situation and feeding it back to them – with humor, or a story or a comment that is RELEVANT for them.
      • After: The last impression that stays of you is the Q & A part. If you can manage to keep up your attentive listening and concentrate on what your audience brings to you during this period, you will be remembered.

      Especially with a hostile question! Your open ear and attentive listening will give you the support of the rest of the audience. You will have their sympathy over the hostile interjection, which in turn will make it much easier for you to respond.

      Let us know how your next presentation goes, if you could listen a little more closely to your audience. We are here with an open ear, listening, awaiting your comments.


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