Break This Rule: #4 – Picture the Audience in Their Underwear

Stupid visuals distance you. Connect with your audience! (Who really wants to visualize Bob from accounting in his underwear?)

I’ve heard them all. Participants in my workshops tell me they’ve been instructed to not only picture the audience in their underwear but also in chicken suits, or with silly propeller hats, or as monkeys. Stop! Do everything you can to understand your audience.

Do everything you can to make sure your audience is comfortable. They should be able to see and hear you, and they should have every opportunity to engage with your message. They are your reason for being. Do some research and find out what they want, why they are there and what matters.

I have a great example. Ed was in a workshop with me at a corporate energy client. He was the only finance guy in a room full of frontline managers. And I’m not kidding when I tell you he was the only person with a white collar. As he began his presentation on finances, everyone’s eyes glazed over in about 30 seconds. They just couldn’t connect to the presentation. Ed knew it. We all knew it.

In the workshop, when he had the chance to redo his presentation, I didn’t expect how this man would transform his delivery to take his audience into account. He rewired his whole approach to appeal to people on the frontline of the company. He told stories about how the performance of individual workers directly affected the company’s profits. Then he showed pictures and talked about what happened when profit was good: The company bought better equipment, offered better benefits and added jobs. Let me tell you, the audience sat up and leaned forward. No one had ever made them feel so clearly connected to the company’s finances. It bordered on genius. Ed made a roomful of friends and believers that day.

Whether it’s 500 people in a big hall or five people around a table, take your audience into consideration and you will be deliciously bad. Get more tips for connecting with your audience at ImprovEdge.

Photo credit: Edward Liu’s Toy Box via Flickr

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