Make it about your audience

Whether you’re selling, giving a presentation, or applying to college, if you want to hold your audience’s attention, make your presentation less about you and more about them. 

I signed up for a new service through my bank that required me to attend a one-hour training session delivered over the phone today.  Although I was the only attendee, the instructor just plodded through every section of his presentation exactly as planned.  At least a half dozen times, he said, “Now, Kevin, I realize you’re not signed up for this next part of the service, but let me just go over a few details about it.”  Much of the presentation had absolutely nothing to do with me or how I’ll use the service.  The instructor was focused on just giving his presentation, instead of focusing on what I wanted to learn.    

Private counselors, when you’re meeting with a potential client, don’t start with a long description of your services.  Find out more about them, what they’re looking for, and what kind of help they think they need.  Then share whatever parts of your service might pertain to them.

Admissions officers, if you’re doing a presentation at a high school and you only have a few attendees, take advantage of the chance to personalize the talk. Ask your audience members a few questions about themselves and what made them come to see you today.  Make the presentation less about plodding through what you had planned and more about helping them make good decisions.    

Students, when your college interviewer asks you a question, give an honest answer, not one that just wedges in a list of your most impressive accomplishments.  

There's nothing wrong with planning what you'd like to communicate.  But if your default is to forge ahead with whatever’s on your brochure, PowerPoint slides, or resume no matter who's in the audience, you’re making it more about you and less about them.