Quit Boring your Audience: the Best Way to Get them Interested

The typical advice to presenters is almost guaranteed to bore your audience to death: think about what you want the audience to think/feel/do differently after your presentation.

Well meaning advice. But completely wrong.

We’ve all been to those presentations, haven’t we? The presenter tries humor, storytelling, hyperbole and other techniques to get you to care. But their agenda is transparent: it’s all about what they want.

If there’s a “what’s in it for me” for the audience, it’s not a sincere interest in you. It’s merely an angle to lure you over to the speaker’s way of thinking. This guarantees the talk will be intended to serve one person’s needs: the speaker’s. Boring!

Here’s a better approach: Take a pen and write two lists on your whiteboard. On the left, list everything you want to talk about. On the right, list everything your audience wants you to talk about.

Now, circle everything that is on both lists. That’s what you talk about.

The stuff that’s only on your list? It’s a self-indulgent monologue. Your audience will be bored.

The stuff only the audience wants to talk about? That’s out of scope for this presentation. Either add it to your list if you decide it’s important. Or, set expectations with the audience that you won’t be covering that in your talk.

Or, do something really radical. Start by writing the audience’s list first. After all, you are presenting for the audience’s benefit, right? Start with a sincere and selfless “what’s in it for them” and you’ll have a sure winner.

Bonus: they will be more likely to think/feel/do something different afterward.

Now you have a topic list your audience wants to listen to. It’s time to write your presentation.

About the author: Bruce Gabrielle is author of Speaking PowerPoint: the New Language of Business, showing a 12-step method for creating clearer and more persuasive PowerPoint slides for boardroom presentations. Subscribe to this blog or join my LinkedIn group to get new posts sent to your inbox.