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With so many presentations to so many different leaders, my mind was focused this week on each particular audience and customizing my presentations to fit their specific challenges, opportunities and goals.

In my research on customizing your message for particular audiences, here are key takeaways I embraced during my presentations:

Exude warmth. Writing for Stanford Business, author Matt Abrahams defines warm as “operational empathy.” Even through a computer screen, you can show warmth by first understanding your audience’s needs and next by reflecting this understanding in your words and actions. Phrases such as, “Like you, I once …” show a connection to your audience while setting up the story you’re about to tell them.

Keep it simple but impactful. In the same article for Stanford Business, Abrahams said, “Instead of seeing speaking as a performance, think of it as being in service of your audience’s needs—this shifts the attention away from you and onto your audience.

The most useful way I know to focus on your audience is to start by asking yourself the simple question: “What does my audience need to hear from me?” Abraham’s advice doesn’t mean watering down your message; it means simplifying your slide presentation, minimizing text and adding engaging, customized visuals they’ll connect with and remember. Also, “simple” for one audience may be “complex” for another. As you customize your presentations, be sure you understand the level of knowledge and skills possessed by your audience members and streamline your content accordingly.

Concentrate on change. Author and former tech executive Seth Godin once said, “A presentation that doesn’t seek to make change is a waste of time and energy.” Be sure that by the time you’re through speaking, your audience feels like they’ve changed in some way or learned new knowledge they can implement to create positive change.

Consider your audience’s point of view. In an article for Fast Company, Dr. Michelle Mazur, a brand message coach, posed three questions to ask in order to better understand your audience: 1. What do they already know about your topic? 2. What misconceptions do they have about your message? 3. What areas of your message will they resist? The answers to these three questions will help you ensure your presentation takes in their collective concerns, point of view and that it addresses what matters most to them.

Make the audience the star of your presentation. This can be as simple as adding their photos to your slide deck or as intricate as adding the particular verbiage they use in their workplace scenarios.

So, what’s the message? In an article for Harvard Business Review, author Nancy Duarte said poignantly, “The value of an idea is judged not just by its content but also by how well it’s understood.”

As you speak to different audiences, eliminate as many obstacles as you can between your central ideas and their comprehension of the concepts presented. The more you think about who your audience is and what they want, the more likely it is they’ll not only remember your presentation but also implement what you have to say into their businesses and lives.

This article is adapted from Blefari’s weekly, company-wide “Thoughts on Leadership” column from HomeServices of America.

 

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