Great mistake! You will never know beforehand what the audience in front of you wants, thinks or feels. It's always going to be a guess, nothing more, nothing less.
This is the thing. You know very little about your audience, you can have a sense, you can have some data, you can have some information, some predictions about behaviours for this or that group, but that doesn't mean that you know them.
A dramatic event in town, a major loss in the community, unexpected good news affecting a large group in the audience, a gossip about redundancies that most of the company heard before your presentation …... and the list can go on and on. Every little or major event can affect your audience's mood, priorities and sense of what they want at that precise moment.
When people say that the presentation is not about you, but about your audience, they mean that you can't build up your presentation in what matters exclusively to you, your small life, your desire to be successful, rich, famous, likeable, make more sales or be admired. You need to build up your message on something bigger than you, still relating to you but something special that people can feel that want to be part of.
Why should the audience get interested in helping you to be richer or more successful? Why should they care about you if you don't care about or empathise with them? When you shift your focus to your message, to what really matters to you and the rest of the world, chances are people will love it.
Think about Dove campaign for Real Beauty asking women what made them beautiful. On talking about the campaign, Ms. Kestin and Ms. Vonk, some of the creators said the “Campaign for Real Beauty” stemmed from an identity that was already in place. Dove took what could have been seen as a weakness in the beauty category and turned it into a strength, which was redefining beauty so it felt like anyone could ascribe to that definition and see themselves differently.”
Dove campaign was not just about selling their products but helping women to challenge pre-conceptions about beauty, contributing to the creation of a much needed social change. And it worked! Dove increased sales from $2.5 billion to well over $4 billion during the campaign.
So next time you prepare your presentation think hard about what your values are, what your beliefs are and why people should care about what you have to say. Focus on your audience to be able to dream with them, not for them and talk about how you are one amongst them, not above them. That moves mountains.
And remember what Natalia Goldberg says about good writing, “it always begins with some kind of direct connection to ourselves”. Likewise, the same rule applies to presentations.