Great Speakers Make It Look Easy

One of my favorite scenes in the movie The Wizard of Oz was when Dorothy and the gang came back with the Wicked Witch’s broomstick and pulled the curtain on the man working the controls of the “great and powerful” Oz.
Getting behind the curtain with the Wizard is just like going behind the scenes with a great speaker. What looks like magic to the audience has a logical explanation that can be modeled and copied if you want to increase your speaking success. 
The great speaker:

  1. Has learned everything he or she can about  their audience.
  2. Knows the Top 3 Things this audience wants to know about his or her topic.
  3. Uses the power of design to craft an experience for their audience.

Know Your Audience
A great speaker knows that a powerful presentation is always about impact. It doesn’t matter how much the speaker knows, what matters is how much of what the speaker knows gets transferred to the audience. The only way to do that effectively every time is to know everything you can about them.
Three questions about your audience that will get you a wealth of information are:

  1. What is their experience with your topic? You need to know if this is the first they’ve heard of it, if it’s very familiar to them, or if they’re somewhere in between. Knowing their experience level will give you the key to determining your content.
  2. What is their education level? Knowing their education level helps you to use language that’s appropriate for the audience. You want to match their education level so you can avoid using language that’s over their heads, or not up to their expectations.
  3. What’s their motivation to attend this presentation? When you know the occasion and the reason your audience is attending, you can tailor your presentation to exceed their expectations.

The Top 3 Things
Great speakers know that we live in highly distracting times. They also know that the simpler the message, the easier it is to remember. Knowing everything possible about their audience gives them a very good sense about the three things about their topic that this audience really needs to hear. Their intention is to be memorable – and to be invited back. They know that the power of leaving their audience wanting more trumps telling them everything — every time.
The Power of Design
You can build anything if you have a blueprint. The blueprint for a great presentation has three elements:


  1. An Opening that connects the speaker to the audience immediately. A speaker who has the audience “at hello” is one who clearly knows them. When you know somebody and you want to take them somewhere, you tell them where you’re going and invite them to join you. Every great speaker wants to take you somewhere and they let you know right up front where it is.
  2. A Body of information that contains the Top 3 Things this audience wants to know. No matter how long the presentation, there are only three things. These are designed to be easily distinguished so the audience knows exactly where they are each step of the way.
  3. A Closing that summarizes everything that’s been said and reflects what the speaker promised in the Opening. The final sentence or two is a call for action, so each member of this audience is invited to do something differently because they heard this speaker.

You don’t have to travel to Oz to create magic in your presentations. You just have to take the time to plan for your success, use the strategies of great speakers and remember that it’s always about the audience.

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