Having just returned from a week of sitting in numerous presentations and giving a couple myself, I’m reminded of what a challenge it can be to create a presentation that makes a difference.

The best presenters put the audience first. An audience-focused speech is more likely to have been prepared with the intent to meet the listener where they are and offer them something of value for their time and attention. When the speaker is focused on his own agenda or is primarily concerned with what the audience will think of him, the odds are not in favor of a transformational moment for anyone present.

Yes, a speaker shouldn’t be attached to the outcome. But, the speaker should walk into the room with the sense of having a gift to offer. That’s why it is called “giving” a speech. Think of your message as a gift, and you will be compelled to create something that is tailored to the unique needs of the audience. Know who will be there and what challenges they face, what problems they want to solve. Then give them something that helps change them for the better, that awakens new possibilities.

Make the audience the hero of the story. Take them on a journey from “Why?” – Why should we care? Why is this important? – to “How?” – How then can we act on this thing that we now care about?

Pixar’s John Lasseter says that a story (at least one that Pixar wants to make) should be about “how the main character changes for the better”. The main character in a presentation is not the speaker, it’s the audience. Put them first, offer them a gift, and empower them to be heroes.

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