When You Speak, What Do You Want People to Feel and Do?
"...and so this is my last slide...um....were there any questions?"
Crickets. A cough. Or the sound of silence. Or the gentle thud of someone's footsteps as they escape nonchalantly from their seat conveniently - strategically maybe - near an exit door.
There are no questions because folks are trying to figure out exactly what just happened. Most could swear there was a presenter on stage for forty-five minutes talking yet none are certain what was said. Or even worse - why it was said.
And....three people are actually asleep.
The biggest failing when communicating to a large audience is simply not giving enough thought to why you're doing it. Yes, we've all been there - due to deliver a presentation in the afternoon and here we are that same morning thrashing together our deck. Cut a few slides from here, paste a few slides from there, ask Sally in sales for her slide from last week and Murray in marketing for his nice looking slide with that fancy animation.
Yes! You're done with an hour to spare. Just enough time to run through your frankenstein deck a couple of times and feel confident you're going to be somewhat coherent. Yet, very little thought about why you're actually presenting it.
Specifically, how you want the audience to feel during the communication and what you want them to do after they've received the message.
Let's call this the intention and objective.
Any form of communication is more effective when it connects with the audience emotionally. This is equally applicable to presentations, emails, letters or simply just conversations.
It's your job as the communicator to be deliberate around how you want the audience to feel. Are you going for excitement or inspiration? Do you want people to feel humbled? Proud? Are you hoping to instill confidence, or even doubt? Maybe you just want them to have a bloody good laugh and feel happy.
The intention should be about immediacy - about the now. It should be obvious by the reactions of your audience as they're consuming your message. Are they shifting in their seats? Are they smiling? Nodding? Crying? Throwing stuff at you?
This instant feedback is used skilfully by talented presenters who can judge how their intention is landing and adjust accordingly on the fly. If their intention is to incite emotion in the audience, yet folks are sitting there with stonewall faces, they go harder at their intention - in this case perhaps show greater vulnerability, tell a more candid story than anticipated, maybe even shed a tear themselves.
Not addressing the intention leaves audiences with that subconscious hollow feeling - making it super easy to walk away never to remember what it was you said.
Almost every form of communication has a purpose: To drive people to take some kind of action. Where the intention is about how people feel during the communication, the objective is about what they do after consuming it.
It could be an easily measurable action such as downloading something, or signing up for a course, or buying something. It could be a more subjective outcome like empowering people to make decisions, changing their eating habits or giving them the confidence to...I don't know...prepare better for a presentation!
Not correctly addressing the objective usually leaves the presenter or communicator somewhat in a muddle, disappointed that no one emailed, called, bought their widget or visited their booth.
Let me be the one to tell you: No one did because you weren't clear that's what they were supposed to do.
Be better prepared
This will drastically improve the chances of your audience walking away with a clear understanding of your message and desire to go take action. And have less folks sneaking out the doors.
Here's some simple steps to take in preparation for your next presentation or important email - you probably have one of those coming up today, right? Thank goodness you found this article. No better time to have a go, so play along at home with me now:
1. Get out a notebook and in it write "Intention" on one line and "Objective" on another.
2. Think hard about why you're communicating your message and how you want people to feel as they're consuming it. Is it an amazing announcement and you want people to be amped up, jumping out of their seats? Write "amped!" next to your intention. Is it something serious you want the audience to deeply consider and mull over? Write "contemplative" or "reflective" next to your intention.
3. Think even harder about the purpose of the communication - the thing you want people to do or change or start or stop. Should they sign up to a training course? Write down "sign up to my training course" next to objective. Should they begin to practice meditation? Write "complete first meditation" next to your objective. You get it.
4. Develop or write your communication. Along the way, keep referring back to your intention and objective and make sure you're addressing them. If your intention was to make people "amped" about your objective to "sign up to your course" then make sure your language and call to actions all support this. When you've completed the communication, run through it with someone else and ask them to guess your intention and objective. If they're nowhere near it, go back and be bolder.
5. Bonus points: As you become more skilled at this, you can apply "micro-intentions" within different parts of the communication itself. Still stick with an overarching intention and use micro-intentions to deliver a rollercoaster of emotion that all lead towards delivering your final intention with even greater impact. Maybe you start with disappointment, mix in a little worry but come home with a bucket of excitement to get people super amped!
Intention: "have an "aha" moment"
Objective: "Readers will use my steps this week"
That's what I wrote as my intention and objective for this article. Did I nail it? Of course, I'll never know if my objective was fulfilled...unless you're so kind as to report in and tell me in the comments.