Your Speech Coach Says, “Put Your Audience First”

How do you persuade customers or clients? The only way you can get someone to give you what you want – to persuade them to use your product or service – is to motivate them with your words. And here’s my little story about motivation.

Picture it – you are eight years old in 3rd grade. The teacher is going on and on, and it’s really boring. You are falling asleep. One nervy little boy in the back of the room yells out without being called on, “Teacher, is this gonna be on the test?” And everyone in the room stops. We’re all really embarrassed that he asked the question. We avoid direct eye contact with the teacher. But we all listen very carefully, because the teacher may say, “No, this is not going to be on the test. This is just something interesting I want you all to remember.” What’s your reaction? You tune out; it’s not important. You look out the window, go to sleep, breathe a sigh of relief. But, what if the teacher says, “Yes, this is going to be a vital part of the test.” What’s your response?  You say, “Could you please repeat that?” “What was that again?” You write it down.

Ever since then, since you were eight years old, you and everyone else are always asking, “Is this on my test?”  And people won’t listen to you unless it is on their test. People are very busy – especially your potential clients and customers. Your job is to put your product or service “on their test.” Unless it’s on their test, forget it. Now, how do you know what their test is? You must find out; you must do your research.

I taught kindergarten when I was getting my Masters Degree in Education. Kindergarteners have no test yet. You say, “Everyone come in a circle,” and they do. They don’t ask anything. They just do it for the sake of doing it. But if I say to a group of adults, “Come on, everybody, let’s join a circle,” what will they say? “Why should we? Do we have to? Who else is gonna do it? What’s gonna happen if we don’t? And how long will this take?” They are finding out if it’s on their test.

When I coach people to speak about their business, I urge them to analyze the audience to find out what’s on their test. You have to be passionate about the needs, problems, and situations of the audience. You’ve got to be interested in the audience in order to sell them your solution. You can’t be up there trying to be interesting. You’ll be boring. The only people who are interesting are the people who are interested in the audience. You are interested in putting it on their test. Next time you do a presentation, don’t ask, “What do I want to tell the people?” Instead ask yourself, “What is it that my audience needs to know? What do I want my audience to do, think or feel after my presentation?” Next time you hear a speaker, you’ll be able to tell whether they are telling you what they want to tell you or whether they have you in mind. Do they want you to say yes to something? Do they want continued support?

What if the presentation doesn’t seem to motivate an action on the audience’s part? Some people think they just give an update on their product or service. And whenever somebody says, “It’s just a…” a red flag goes up for me. You just give an update? What do you want the audience to do, think, or feel after you speak? Do you want credibility? Yes. Do you want continued support for what you’re doing? Yes. You always want people to know you are credible, to support you, and to think you’re fabulous.

Every presentation you give needs to motivate your audience to do, think, or feel something. Otherwise, why are you even speaking? My favorite Ghandi quote is, “Speak only if it improves upon the silence.”

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